The Budapest MikuLASS charity run for the visually impaired

Through my role in the Budapest office, I have the opportunity to actively participate and lead community relations programs such as charity events or volunteering programs. I am also lucky enough to meet a lot of very interesting people, like last October when I met Steve Kalnoky.

Steve is a Hungarian who lived in the U.S. for a long time and got a really good taste for charity and volunteering there. Like me, he quickly realized the immense differences between community relations practices in the U.S. and here in Hungary.

Steve is a runner. He has been running for years, and when he came back to live in Hungary he continued this hobby on the Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube. It was there that he came in contact with people from the LASS foundation, an organization that helps visually impaired athletes to be able to perform their hobbies and sports.

Like most nonprofit organizations in Hungary, the LASS foundation is always struggling with their budget and talking about this Steve had the idea of organizing a charity run.

We met for the first time in October and we immediately realized this was a connection we could both benefit from since our team is always looking for new ways and places for volunteering opportunities. We were very much aligned with our ideas about charity and volunteering, so I quickly agreed to see if Celanese was willing to sponsor his event.

After all the formalities were done, Celanese became a Silver sponsor and communication started to our colleagues. Having never organized a run with our colleagues, I did not know what to expect at all. We were aiming to have about 20 colleagues at the event since it was about running either 6.5 or 12.5 kilometers, which is quite a challenge to many of us … including myself!

On the first day of the sign up we reached 25 participants; and by the end of the sign-up period almost 50 people decided to come and run for this great cause.

As the day of the run drew closer, we held a safety and information briefing for the participants and handed out Celanese Connects T-shirts to everyone.

The name of the charity run, MikuLASS, comes from combining the Hungarian word for Saint Nicolas (Mikulas) with the name of the LASS foundation; the run was held on December 8, just two days after celebrating Saint Nicolas on a very cold Sunday morning.

Not in our wildest dreams could we have expected the turnout we had, with more than 400 runners signed up and with everyone wearing a Santa Claus hat, it was a very festive sight to watch!

The actual run started soon after the warm up session and again it was amazing sight to see 400 Santa Claus hats moving in the same direction. We started with a lap at the athletics stadium on the island after which we continued outside on the running track that is on the outline of the whole island. The sound of the bells attached to the Santa Claus hats was almost deafening and surely amused all the people walking on the island for a nice Sunday morning walk! There were several blind athletes who were also participating in the run with a partner to guide them.

The first runners arrived back in the stadium for a last lap after 25 minutes already and the last ones arrived after about an hour and 10 minutes. It was still very cold so the hot wine, tea and chocolate milk were received very happily by everyone.

Besides the run itself, there were several ways for anyone to experience the sensation of being blind. We asked people that run a blind exhibition in Budapest to come and use their tools to let everyday people experience what it is like to be blind. They had a small labyrinth where you could try to walk though blindfolded with a walking stick and several athletes tried out running as a blind person on the outdoor track for one lap. Some of the participants described it to be an “eye opening” experience as it is amazing to get a real feel to how difficult simple things become when you are blind. The other shared opinion of those who tried it was the large amount of trust you must have in the people around you; you are in their hands when you are running to guide you around obstacles.

At the awards ceremony for the fastest runners it turned out that two of our colleagues received a prize, both for second place on the short and on the longer run.

All in all it was a wonderful day where $10,000 was raised for this charity and more than 400 people had the chance to run for a good cause!

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About the author


				Kaspar Douwes is the process improvement specialist/project manager at Celanese in Budapest, Hungary. In his free time he enjoys sailing, surfing and volunteering.				

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