Running for a cause

Bryan Veginski TimesNewspapers
The Tri for Kids Sake triathlon is one of eight scheduled for the Pay It Forward Racing Group. The triathlon in Morton benefits the Heart of Illinois Big Brothers/Big Sisters group.

Athletes wanting to add to their competitive calendar or individuals seeking to help a worthwhile cause have an outlet with Pay It Forward Racing.

Dustin Weeks turned his hobby as a race director into a non-profit business that aims to provide affordable local athletic events with various charities as beneficiaries.

Weeks’ infant daughter, Vivian, is the engine driving the movement.

“Vivian is my main inspiration,” said Weeks. “She’s a sweet little girl. She’s a fighter.”

Vivian suffered a stroke at 4 1/2 months old. She spent 29 days at Children’s Hospital of Illinois.

Now more than 1 year old, Vivian receives two weekly therapies — physical and visual. Occupational therapy also is a possibility.

She will have permanent brain damage that includes a visual impairment, but the extent will not be known until she gets older.

Although she is getting stronger, Vivian does not have the coordination to crawl.

“We’re blessed. She gets very good therapy,” said Weeks.

Vivian is improving. After going through feeding therapy, she recently got off eating thick liquids.

Through it all, Vivian delights her father with her happy disposition.

As of mid-April, eight events were on the Pay it Forward 2013 schedule as Weeks follows through on his commitment to give back to the community.

The following is a list of events (and the charity that they benefit):

• May 25, Morton: Tri for Kids Sake (Heart of Illinois Big Brothers/Big Sisters), a sprint triathlon.

• June 29, Eureka Lake: Eureka Lake Triathlon (Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America), a sprint triathlon.

• July 20, starts and ends at Russell’s Cycling & Fitness Center in Washington: Vivian’s Victory Ride (Children’s Hospital of Illinois), a leisure ride in which participants pick their distance.

• Aug. 24, Five Points Washington: Tri for Dax (Dax Locke Foundation), a sprint triathlon/5K.

• Sept. 14, Pekin’s Mineral Springs Park: softball tournament (Central Illinois Alzheimer’s Association).

• Sept. 28, Farmdale Park: Dual at the Farm (Friendship House), a dual-athlon — trail run/mountain bike/trail run.

• Dec. 14, Peoria Riverfront: Ugly Christmas Sweater 5K (split between Heart of Illinois United Way and for the creation of a scholarship fund for children of single fathers).

• Jan. 1, Five Points Washington: Spin for Dreams (split between the Make-A-Wish Foundation local chapter and Dreams for Seniors), a Spin-a-thon.

The triathlon at Eureka Lake is the first one at that site. That distinction also is part of the Dual at the Farm.

“It’s cool we’re reaching some new communities,” Weeks said.

The Tri for Kids Sake, now in its third year, was a first-time event for Morton.

Weeks enlisted the help of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois to get started toward establishing a scholarship. An advisory council has been formed.

“There are so many people who really want to live out this mission,” said Weeks. “I think we’re going to do really well. I’m really excited.”

Pay It Forward is in the midst of the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) organization, a goal Weeks said he is hoping to reach by 2014.

The website www.payitforwardracing.com is a place to check for event information and more about the non-profit business. Those interested also can call Weeks at 210-7284.

Volunteers and new sponsors always are welcome. Pay It Forward also is open to any suggestions for charities to support.