The weSPARK 10K Run & 5K Run/Walk is a unique event. Combining Hollywood movie magic with a mission to fundraise for the weSPARK Cancer Support Center, this event has grown dramatically since its inception in 2008. A large part of that growth is due to the vision and dedication of the event’s creator, Anton Maillie.
Anton, a producer of TV commercials, lost his mom to cancer and in 2004, was introduced to weSPARK by his good friend and the organization’s executive director, Nancy Allen. weSPARK is an amazing organization that provides a variety of free cancer support services for patients, their families and friends. Anton says he “got an incredible amount of relief from weSPARK’s programs. That same year, I went to Ireland to run my first marathon and raised $8,000 for weSPARK. It was the initial mustard seed that got me wanting to give back to that organization.”
Anton got hooked on running and set a goal to run a marathon in all seven continents. In 2007—a mere three years later—he reached that goal, becoming the 153rd man on the planet to achieve the honor. At this point, he decided that he wanted to do more to give back to weSPARK. He wanted to combine his love of running with his experience as a producer to do something special. And so he came up with the idea to build an event based on three main principles:
- Be all inclusive and affordable. Anyone and everyone should be able participate (runners, walkers, fundraisers, volunteers)
- Bring more awareness to weSPARK within the community
- Attract new sponsors to increase weSPARK’s donation base
Anton pitched his idea to Nancy and asked for $15,000 to get the event going—promising her the event would make at least $15,001 in its first year. Nancy agreed and within a short amount of time, Anton had already brought on three sponsors to cover the initial investment cost. Held in Woodley Park in Lake Balboa, the inaugural event in 2008 attracted 600 runners and netted an incredible $58,000. All profit—every cent—is donated to weSPARK.
The second year saw 1000 runners, more sponsors and $101,000 in revenue. For its third year, Anton wanted to set his event apart from the competition even more. He moved the race to the Universal Studios Backlot. Now runners are surprised around every corner with characters like Frankenstein, Cat In the Hat, Norman Bates, and more. “It’s a very interactive course,” notes Anton. Plus, the event attracts celebrity MCs and guest appearances that boost its Hollywood reputation even more.
In 2011, with its new Universal Studios location, the event grew to 1700 participants and raised $108,000 for weSPARK. To date, that totals approximately $267,000 raised for weSPARK in only three years! For its fourth year, Anton expects to sell out at the course limit of 3000 participants and is conservatively projecting a fundraising amount of $120,000.
Anton attributes his success to the dedication and selfless efforts of the people around him. “I have a ‘task force’ of about 30 people who work for me and donate their time and services, bending over backward to make this event happen. They are consummate professionals. Not to mention Nancy Allen and Lilliane Ballesteros (event director) at weSPARK. And of course, my wife Mari. She built a great website for the event and has really helped us go viral and get exposure through Facebook. Creating this social media buzz is the biggest reason we will sell out this year.”
With such an interactive course, the involvement of celebrities like Mark L. Walberg and Max Greenfield, a cavalry of food trucks to replenish participants, and such a worthy cause, the weSPARK 10K Run & 5K Run/Walk is guaranteed to be a success for many years to come.
“It takes a lot of time and effort to put on this event and it’s all worth it,” says Anton. “Seeing someone cross the finish line who beat cancer or recovered enough to walk the 5K, it’s an emotional experience. What I love most about this event is that it’s all inclusive. That is what weSPARK is all about and this event was created to support them.”