CEDAR RAPIDS — Eight years after devastating floods forever changed the city, hundreds of people participated over the weekend in an obstacle-course run to help an organization that has continued its mission long after the floodwaters receded.
More than 1,000 people signed up to race through a 2.7-mile course set up in Ellis Park — dodging water guns, climbing inflatables and zipping down a water slide to the finish line.
Event organizers estimated they raised about $25,000. Half the proceeds from the Saturday event will go to the Salvation Army and half to Matthew 25 — a non-profit formed by two brothers that has helped the community recover from the flood.
Now called Flood the Run, the event was first called Run the Flood and was intended as a fundraiser for those affected by the 2008 flood.
Although the event has shifted from its original goal, the floodwaters were still on the minds of some participants.
“You think about the people affected and why this originally started,” said Doug Heckmann, an Urbana resident who ran the 2.7-mile race. “People got more than wet, they lost everything.”
Founded in 2006 by brothers Clint Twedt-Ball and Courtney Ball, Matthew 25 “understood their purpose” after the 2008 flood, said Eden Youngberg, its development and communications coordinator.
Today, Matthew 25 continues work volunteers did in the year following the flood.
“Just because it’s eight years after the flood doesn’t mean there’s not a need to revitalize the neighborhood,” Youngberg said.
The majority of its projects still focus on neighborhoods around Ellis Boulevard, one the areas hardest hit in 2008, said Twedt-Ball, executive director of Matthew 25. In the coming months, Matthew 25 will renovate several houses in the area, as well as an old grocery store located on the boulevard.
However, Twedt-Ball said he hopes the organization will expand its work to other neighborhoods next year.
Matthew 25 leaders are finishing renovations on its headquarters at 201 Third Ave. SW, a $1.3 million construction that was funded through the non-profit’s capital campaign that wrapped up in January. The campaign raised $1.8 million; the remainder will be used to expand its urban farm, Twedt-Ball said.
Renovation of the headquarters will include construction of a youth arts venue called Groundswell. The venue will offer a space for young Cedar Rapids residents to perform their art, including music and poetry, while offering a place where youth can feel encouraged and supported, Twedt-Ball said.
“Kids often don’t have a place to express themselves openly and have a place where they can talk about what they want in the world,” Twedt-Ball said.
The grand opening of the new headquarters and the youth arts venue will be Oct. 14.
Four executive members of Matthew 25 took on a neighborhood empowerment goal through an eight-day trip to Morocco in North Africa in March to learn more about Muslim culture and address issues Muslim families here face.
“We wanted to educate ourselves and see empowerment in a different environment than Cedar Rapids,” Twedt-Ball said.
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Matthew 25 executives plan to return to Morocco in February and hope to bring a someone from there to the United States in May for a shared learning opportunity.