At CARA, it is our members and their diverse backgrounds and experiences who help shape the “Power of the Group”. We run together, no matter your race, religion, sexual orientation, or background.
In honor of Pride Month, we will be featuring inspiring stories from LGBTQ+ members of the CARA community. First up, get to know CARA members Steven Pryor and Gregg Rojewski!
Tell us about your running journey! How did you start running?
We started running when we signed up for our first 5k back in 2014. The 5K was “bacon-themed” and at the finish, there were trays and trays of bacon. The initial start to training was not as planned. Incorrect shoes made it difficult to run. We started our training by doing a mile first and building up from there. After purchasing the correct shoes and training for a couple of weeks, we completed our first 5K. After successfully completing that, we signed up for a few more 5Ks and then a 1/2 marathon.
After a year, Gregg signed up for the Chicago Marathon and did training on his own. The following year, Steven signed up for the Chicago Marathon and Gregg was entered into the NYC Marathon. Steven was running for a charity and had the summer training program with CARA as part of the charity package. That was when Steven got involved with CARA. We now have completed four marathons each and will continue to train for this year’s marathon.
What is your personal connection to CARA?
Steven has been training with CARA for the past three years and is now part of the marathon training group leaders. Gregg joined CARA training last year. It’s one of our highlights during the summer to wake up at the crack of dawn and join our friends for the long runs on Sundays. It feels so rewarding to complete the runs and stick with the training program.
CARA has been more than just a running association to us. We have met so many people who we consider friends now and it’s so uplifting to be part of such a positive group.
What role does running play in your life?
Running is not just about races. It’s about challenging yourself to be consistent and strong during your runs. It also provides a mental break from work and daily stress. We both can’t imagine not having running in our lives.
In addition to running, you have a great passion for helping your community. Tell us more about your Pack The Car initiative!
Twelve years ago we were having a holiday dinner with family at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab. After leaving the restaurant, we were approached by a younger man who was asking us for money so that he could purchase something for dinner. We unfortunately didn’t carry any cash that day but we offered him our leftovers. He graciously accepted. We were skeptical that he would throw it in the trash but, as we watched as he crossed the street, he opened up the container and ate everything. Right then we knew we wanted to do something to give back. We had long known of Care for Real (careforreal.org), a food pantry and clothing closet serving the north side of Chicago, and planned to do a one-time food drive. Donations typically are lower after the holidays so we decided to hold our food drive in January. We really didn’t have a plan but thought we would park our car at a busy intersection and invite friends, family, and neighbors to donate during a set timeframe.
The Pack The Car URL (www.packthecar.com) was available so that’s how this drive got its name. At the end of the drive, our car was packed with donations. Due to the success of that drive, we planned another one for February. Subsequently, that drive was a huge success. So we started doing a pack the car drive the last Saturday of every month for the past twelve years. It feels great to give back to the community that we love. And it is also exciting to see the community taking interest in giving back locally.
What does pride mean to you?
Pride has a lot of different meanings but it’s special to us since we met at the Pride parade back in 1999. For us, Pride means acceptance, peace, and love.