Midnight Run, a Marquette volunteer service program focused on preventing hunger and homelessness, celebrated its 25th anniversary this weekend with activities during the university’s Family Weekend. Midnight Run sponsors meals, tutoring and clothing distribution at 10 service sites around Milwaukee six days a week.
The celebrations started Friday afternoon when hundreds of students and community members gathered for the annual Miles for Meals 5-kilometer run, which raises money to fund Midnight Run’s programs. Midnight Run is funded solely by donations and other fundraisers.
Saturday’s events opened with a special Saturday edition of Noon Run, one of the first sites for Midnight Run. Noon Run takes place at Redeemer Lutheran Church, across from Mashuda Hall, Sunday through Friday during the academic year. Student volunteers at Noon Run make and serve food, as well as eat with neighborhood guests.
“It isn’t the food,” said Tim Flanagan, a longtime Noon Run volunteer. “It’s the people, and I want to thank all the people who have helped me along the way.”
Noon Run was followed by Mass at Gesu Church and the celebration ended with an anniversary banquet attended by students, faculty and alumni.
Sarah Thiry, a co-coordinator of Midnight Run and senior in the College of Nursing, said she had some conflicting thoughts about celebrating Midnight Run’s anniversary, but she is glad the program is around to help those in need.
“Do you celebrate 25 years of having to serve the homeless and help those in poverty because in a perfect world, we wouldn’t be around,” Thiry said. “We’ve been doing this for 25 years, and it’s been great, and it’s transformed a number of lives.”
Other co-coordinators said Midnight Run changed their own lives.
“My experience as a whole at Midnight Run has taught me to be grateful for the relationships and the community and also the people I’ve met in the different communities,” said Jena Wallander, a senior in the College of Nursing and a Midnight Run co-coordinator.
“It’s been a lot about breaking down barriers that exist between Marquette students and the Milwaukee community,” said Mary Asma, a junior in the College of Health Sciences and Midnight Run co-coordinator.
Joe Cayan, a 1990 graduate, is one of Midnight Run’s founders. He said he is proud of where the program is and hopes it continues to grow.
“It’s amazing,” Cayan said. “I was here for the 15th anniversary and then the 20th and now the 25th, and it keeps growing and keeps chugging along.”
“It’s amazing that these students carrying it on and its much more organized,” he continued, “and now they’re getting the better history of what they’re doing and tracking the impact they’re making, and it’s great.”
The program started in 1988 after Marquette students attended the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homeless Conference and returned to campus with the idea. Students saw the need for a program in Milwaukee that dealt with hunger and homelessness, and Midnight Run was born.
Students started out by driving around in a van in the evenings handing out blankets, while the program had only about 20 members. The program now has 10 different sites, some of which are student operated, and about 100-150 members a semester.
“The true strength of this program is that it started with the passion of students, and it’s passed on from students to students,” said Gerry Fischer, the faculty coordinator of Midnight Run and associate director of Campus Ministry. “It really is the concrete example of student passion for compassion for others. It’s a marvelous thing to be a part of.”
Cayan said he hopes to see the program celebrate 25 more years.
“I’m really happy that it’s growing,” Cayan said. “Keep it going.”