Grace was a frequent participant over the years at the Run for the Hills event at Hidden Lake Gardens. Here she proudly holds up the medal she received for her first-place finish in her age group, 80.
PHOTOS COURTESY ZONYA EDWARDS FOCO
By John Hummer
There is a big race happening in the Irish Hills this Saturday, Sept. 17, at Hidden Lake Gardens. It’s the annual “Run for the Hills” 5K Run/Walk and 1-mile event.
But this year there is something special taking place – a gift from one of the past runners of the event, the late Grace Edwards Owens.
As her spokesperson, Grace’s daughter, Zonya Edwards Foco, shares, “In honor of her passing just this past February and knowing how she loved to spread the joy of running and supported the Reach for the Sky project at Hidden Lake Gardens, Grace will be granting a 100 percent match of all registrations for the September 17, 2022, race.”
That means for every adult or child registering for the 5K or 1 mile walk or run, all registration tickets will double the revenue raised. This will help Reach for the Sky meet its goal more quickly and support the great work of Oh These Irish Hills!, the lead sponsor of the race.
“What a unique gift and opportunity for us,” said Paul Pfeifer, managing director at Hidden Lake Gardens. “The support from Zonya and her family recognizing how much Grace loved Hidden Lake Gardens and loved running and health and wellness . . . I think it’s a wonderful gift and a great message to promote.”
Pfeifer noted that the event, being at Hidden Lake Gardens, is a win-win for participants in that “being outdoors, being out in nature, is a great tool for relieving stress, reducing heart rate, and really contributing to an all-around healthier lifestyle” – something that Grace would be proud of supporting in addition to contributing to the Reach for the Sky project and helping it come to fruition.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Pfeifer continues. “We feel privileged to be the host site. Oh These Irish Hills! really does all the legwork – all the coordination and planning and conducting of the event. We’re just thrilled that they see the value of having it here at Hidden Lake Gardens. It will be a really wonderful day.”
Some know the late Grace Edwards Owens because she helped them sell and/or find their home, as that is how she is best known for serving Lenawee County. She was a real estate agent and broker for Irish Hills Realty from 1972 to 2001. Grace was a past president of the Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce and Lenawee County Board of Realtors. After retiring in 2001, she expressed her talents as an artist, writer, golfer, and runner. As a runner, she won many 5Ks in her age group, her last being at 80 years of age at Hidden Lake Gardens in the Run for the Hills race.
“I remember moving here from Missouri 54 years ago,” says daughter Zonya. “There was not a year that we didn’t go to Hidden Lake Gardens to hike the trails, visit the tropical and desert domes, and have a picnic. And the best memories are running the Oh These Irish Hills! Run for the Hills 5K together. From when I would run faster than her, and then run back to her to ‘run in together’, to when we walked the whole thing together (when she was 80), my mom and I have loved this race and see her win in her age group, many times over.” (more below)
On Feb. 6, 2022, Grace succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 85. But for the Run for the Hills race this Saturday, her legacy will live on many times over for all the people in the future who will enjoy the Reach for the Sky canopy walk.
Pfeifer explained that the Reach for the Sky project, when complete, will be a tree canopy walk. “This canopy walk is incorporated into the hikers’ trail in the woodland part of Hidden Lake Gardens,” he said. “The goal of having this kind of an attraction and this kind of experience is to get people to come to Hidden Lake Gardens and get out of their vehicles and into nature – and really kind of connect with nature – and just taking a moment to encounter this walk through the tree canopy,” adding that health benefits (mentioned above) are an integral part of the experience.
Due to delays from the COVID pandemic, the structure has been under construction since late March of this year. An unveiling ceremony and celebration of the project, with the president of Michigan State University on hand, is scheduled for Oct. 22, regardless of whether Reach for the Sky is ready to be open to the public. “We’re hoping that the canopy walk will be open to the public sometime this fall, but construction schedules are fluid, so we’re not exactly sure what the public opening day will be at this point,” Pfeifer noted. “It’s getting closer and closer and it’s really taking shape and we’re very, very excited about it.”
So, whether you walk or run, do one mile or the 5K, come out and join in on the fun, knowing that your registration ticket contribution has doubled its power to ‘Gracefully’ support Reach for the Sky at Hidden Lake Gardens.
Learn more about the race and sign up at otih.org, or call Kay Roumell at 517-403-5358 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Hidden Lake Gardens
Hidden Lake Gardens is owned and operated by Michigan State University, but supported through admission fees, endowments, gifts and the “Friends of Hidden Lake Gardens” membership program. The Gardens is open 360 days of the year with a nominal admission charge for visitors. In addition to more than six miles of one-way paved drives, there are 12 miles of hiking trails to allow the visitor a closer look at the beauty that the Gardens provide. For more information, visit canr.msu.edu/hiddenlakegardens.
About Oh These Irish Hills!
Oh These Irish Hills! is a nonprofit organization formed in the late summer of 2004. The group’s purpose is to advance an Irish Hills legacy. This legacy involves area individuals, groups, and organizations in activities that celebrate the beauty of the place, the spirit of its people, and the progression of its history. For more information, visit otih.org.