1979-2022: 44 Years

In late 1978 in Lewiston, Minnesota, high school track and field standout Dan Reinboldt and his coach Gary Mills came up with the idea of hosting a road race. They talked about the idea and decided to try it, but Coach Mills knew the small, tightly knit community would be more supportive of a road race with a cause. They also knew they would need help managing the operations of such an event.

Unfortunately, deciding on a cause was all too easy. Cancer had recently claimed the lives of two of the community’s exceptional people: the coach’s neighbor Ed Kessler and Kim Huhnerkoch, the sister of a former high school track star and babysitter of the coach’s sons. Operational help came from Dianne Rislow with the Mrs. Jaycees organization, who volunteered for what eventually became much more than coordinating race results.

It was determined that race participants would be encouraged to raise pledges that would be donated to the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester for cancer research. The five-mile race was scheduled for April Fools’ Day, 1979, and accordingly named the Fools Five Road Race, which also included a one mile race. That day, 222 participants raised $2,232, and the male and female winners of the five-mile race were awarded the Ed Kessler Memorial Trophy and the Kim Huhnerkoch Memorial Trophy, respectively. Deemed a success, they scheduled the second Fools Five Road Race for the first Sunday of April, 1980. The success of the inaugural race and the cause generated great interest, and with a more successful second year, Fools Five became an annual event and a household name.

Over the years, Fools Five grew larger and more productive than its founders ever envisioned. Silent and live auctions were added; the support of the community grew, participation in the race increased steadily, and so far, they’ve helped raise over $2.5m for cancer research. Lewiston regularly welcomes more participants on race day than there are residents, and those who have stayed for the social hour following each year’s race have heard guest speakers like world-class runners Alberto Salazar, Frank Shorter, and Dick Beardsley, as well as cancer research specialists, motivational speakers, and cancer survivors. Each has shared his or her unique message on personal challenges, incredible victories, training techniques, and the importance of supporting cancer research.

Although much has changed since the inaugural event in 1979, Fools Five has remained focused on organizing the highest quality race and raising the greatest awareness and financial support for their cause. Pledges, donations, and auction proceeds are given to Gundersen Medical Foundation, La Crosse, WI and the Rochester Eagles Cancer Telethon, Rochester, MN which donates to the Mayo Clinic, The Hormel Institute for Cancer Research, and Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota.  A separate auction raises money for a local cancer support group.