Evanston resident walks marathon to fundraise for YWCA


Courtesy of Becca Noyes.

Wolf sits in front of the Evanston YWCA after finishing her marathon. She walked amidst the pandemic to benefit the YWCA.

William Clark, Reporter

In February, Evanston resident Christine Wolf was at home with sutures in her stomach, recovering from an abdominal surgery. She would have to relearn how to walk, and getting out of bed was difficult.

But by mid-October, Wolf was walking her own self-styled marathon.

Through the marathon, Wolf raised $3,860 — which an anonymous donor pledged to double — for the Evanston YWCA. The total $7,720 will fund local anti-racism and women’s empowerment programs.

Wolf is a blogger, journalist, business owner and mother of three. She has worked as a columnist at the Chicago Tribune, founded her own digital magazine, and owns Writers’ Haven Evanston, a creative space for women writers. Outside of writing, she is also a determined marathon-walker.

In July, the 2020 Chicago Marathon was cancelled due to COVID-19, leaving Wolf wondering if 2020 just wasn’t her year to race. She had participated in two marathons previously, but with the pandemic and her own medical situation, she questioned whether the time was right.

Then, protests for racial justice resolved her question.

“When I saw what happened to George Floyd… Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain, it was non-negotiable,” she said, referring to three Black people who were killed by police. “I needed to do something.”

Wolf has worked with the YWCA before. She said she is passionate about its mission and programs, which support initiatives like the distribution of resources for survivors of domestic violence, providing women tools to obtain financial security and offering free swim instruction to low-income children.

Galvanized by her passion for the YWCA’s work, Wolf decided to self-style a marathon that would benefit the organization. She set up a GoFundMe page telling her story, posting frequent training updates and providing antiracism resources. Later on, she designed her own marathon route, which circled Evanston and ended in front of the YWCA.

Then, she trained. Training was incredibly important to Wolf’s mental health, she said.

“In this unbelievable, chaotic time, just to have this regular, dependable, familiar structure to work towards was super powerful for me,” she said.

As she walked distances increasing up to 20 miles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, Wolf listened to podcasts and audiobooks about race and injustice, trying to learn how better to advocate for marginalized communities, she said.

Her friends and family say they’re proud of Wolf’s fight for justice and empathy.

“She’s the type of friend who, when anything’s going wrong in your life, she just kind of swoops in and wants to help,” Becca Noyes, Wolf’s longtime friend, said. “She’s always had her heart tugged in ways like that. She cares a lot about the community.”

Noyes and her husband intercepted Wolf at multiple points along the marathon route to cheer her on. Unlike a normal marathon, Wolf’s journey featured no competitors or spectators lining the streets. However, she had the support of her close friends and family. Kate Cieslak, Wolf’s mother, met her at the end of the marathon. They walked the last three blocks together.

At one point, Noyes brought Wolf a Chicago-style hot dog. Later, Wolf got a second hot dog at Mustard’s Last Stand, which opened early just for her.

“This is my secret weapon,” she said. “I always love to have a Chicago hot dog while I’m doing my marathon. I’m such a non-traditional marathoner.”

Wolf’s other “secret weapon,” some say, is her fundraising ability. Although $3,000 was her original goal, by Oct. 21 she had exceeded her target by nearly $900. Then, she discovered an anonymous donor would match her donation, in honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Today, she’s raised $7,720 in total, but Wolf has decided to keep the GoFundMe running as donations continue to flow in.

“It’s really tremendous that she would do that on behalf of the YWCA,” said Kathy Slaughter, the Evanston YWCA’s vice president of development. “We’re excited and very grateful for it.”

Looking forward, Wolf said she hopes to continue raising awareness and supporting her community.

Wolf said she also hopes to couple mental health advocacy, an issue she cares about deeply, with the issue of racial injustice as she goes forward.

“My latest race is over, but racism in America is not,” she said. “I want to continue speaking up and calling it out whenever I can.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @willsclark01

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