Mike Kline ’88 and members of his UW-Green Bay cross-country team were honored recently with the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Wisconsin chapter of the national Arthritis Foundation at the group’s annual awards night in Wauwatosa.
Kline and the team have volunteered their time for 14 years handling all aspects of the outdoor portion of the Green Bay Jingle Bell Run/Walk.
“There are so many worthy charities, but arthritis, I think, sometimes takes a public backseat to illnesses like heart disease and cancer, even though so many people are afflicted,” said Kline. “We are happy to have the opportunity to help at an event which is very much associated with what we like to do.”
Kline’s team is responsible for course coordination, times and places of contestants, and all coordination of outdoor activity. The event is held annually on the UW-Green Bay campus in early December, with a number of student and campus groups contributing to the effort. Approximately 300 to 400 participants took part in the first run 14 years ago. This past year about 1,400 people registered and competed.
“We look at it this way: training and running are so important to our college athletes, and we’re blessed with great health. During the Jingle Bell Walk/Run we witness young and old who are living with the illness and doing everything they can just to complete the 5K. We feel blessed and it reminds us that with a snap of the finger it can be taken away from us.”
Regarding the recognition, Kline says he doesn’t deserve the credit.
“It’s so much fun, especially this past year with the heavy snow, that we feel guilty calling it community service,” Kline said. “Laura Libert, Arthritis Foundation district director, really makes our job easy.”
This fall, Kline, who graduated from UW-Green Bay in 1988 with a triple major in philosophy, psychology and human development, begins his twenty-third season as head coach of the Phoenix men’s and women’s cross country programs.