She doesn’t consider herself a typical teenager. And maybe she shouldn’t -- at the Help for Hope House 5K on Saturday (November 25th), she’ll be the one wearing the “Race Director” t-shirt. Caitlin Steiger, a 16-year-old White Station High School student, started the Help for Hope House 5K last year. Steiger, who has been running since she was in eighth grade, was participating in road races almost every weekend when she decided it might be fun to put on her own race. It was while she was in the girls’ service club at White Station Middle School that she was introduced to Hope House. “Do you know about Hope House?” she asks, exuberantly. “It’s amazing.” Hope House is a daycare for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Started by the Junior League in 1995, Hope House picks the children up from the homes, feeds them two meals a day, plus a snack, and tries to help their families through education and better written perhaps. “When I decided I thought it would be really neat to direct a race,” says Steiger, “it just kind of fit in perfectly that Hope House needed publicity.” She says her parents thought she would get discouraged when she saw how much work she’d have to do. But she didn’t. Instead she started sending out letters to corporations asking for sponsorship. “I followed all the letters up with phone calls, lots and lots of phone calls.” Steiger is modest about her accomplishments. She shrugs and pushes a lock of shoulder length brown hair behind her ear. Anyone can do a race. She says her experiences at road races paved the way for her to direct the race. “It’s really easy to see what to do and what not to do when you’ve gone as a runner.” Steiger also gives credit to her parents for their support, driving her places before she got her license. “They help a lot with the whole thing. And I always ask their opinions on things.” Last year, the fundraiser took in about $22,000 before expenses, and netted about $13,000. So far, this year’s total before expenses is $19,000. As for how much money she wants to raise this year, she laughs and says, “As much as possible. We’re hoping to get more than last year.” Right now, Steiger is keeping a sharp eye on the weather. “If we have bad weather, our expectations drop dramatically,” she says. So far, the weather forecast looks good; it’s supposed to warm up a little, which Steiger says will be perfect. “Last year, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.” Steiger, who began planning for the 5K about five or six weeks after the last one finished, says that it wasn’t easier to direct the race just because she had done it once before. “The logistics part was easier, because we knew from last year. Plus I’m not as nervous. But money raising this year was really hard.” The race lost a $5,000 corporate sponsor, as well as some smaller donors. “We didn’t gain a $5,000 sponsor this year,” says Steiger. “So even though I’ve raised more than I had last year, it took a lot more work. I guess we were expecting it to be all the people from last year, and then some. That was really hard, realizing it wasn’t going to be that way.” But Steiger’s used to challenging herself. This past summer, she was a counselor at Camp Dream, a camp for underprivileged, special needs children. After that, she spent two weeks in the Minnesota Boundary Waters with Outward Bound, being bitten by tiny bugs and carrying a heavy canoe over her head. All of which she described as fun. In some ways, she is a typical teenager. She loves music, although not pop fare. She likes older stuff. Her eyes light up when she talks about the David Grisman Quintet, the Grateful Dead, and Dar Williams. And she’s gotten her friends involved, passing out brochures and working at Shelby Farms the day of. The phone rings and she talks to one of them briefly about running the 5K. But this will be her last year directing the race. “I’ll always be involved with Hope House at some level, but I’ll be applying to college at this time next year,” says Steiger, “I just don’t think It’d be possible time-wise.” Not that she’s going to let the race die. Not after all her hard work. “It’s established. It’d be a shame for Hope House to lose this fundraiser. We’re definitely going to find someone to take it over.” (You can write Mary Cashiola at cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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