ESPN’s John Anderson to host second annual College Avenue Mile

During last year’s race, Anderson raised more than $30,000 to assist underprivileged schoolchildren in the Columbia area.

ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Anderson graduated from MU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism 27 years ago.

However, his work is not done in Columbia.

Anderson will be hosting the second annual College Avenue Mile, sponsored by his organization, the Anderson Family Charitable Foundation, Sept. 21.

Anderson and his wife, Tamara, started the AFCF in 2009 with the focus of helping elementary school-aged children who need financial assistance.

Presented by Midwest Computech, the one-mile race costs $20 per runner. The proceeds are used to fund running clubs created by Columbia Public Schools, as well as the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri’s Buddy Pack program.

Anderson said he established a foundation to focus on helping schoolchildren because his kids were the same age at the time.

“We saw how excited our kids were to go to school every day,” he said. “We thought it was a good idea to catch kids early, to get them excited early about going to school.”

Anderson’s grandfather, grandmother and mother-in-law were educators, so he said he’s aware that there are children in school who are in need.

Forty-four percent of schoolchildren in the Columbia area qualify for free or reduced meals in their schools, covering their lunches and breakfasts during the school week, according to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

The Buddy Pack program is dedicated to sending these students home with nutritious food that lasts them through the weekends and holidays when they are not receiving the in-school meals.

Todd Pridemore, the food bank’s development manager, said these packages cost $180 per student per year and are provided to 7,200 students in the area.

The race helps CPS’ running clubs, which were set up in order to promote well-being and fitness among students.

Last year, despite rainstorms, 400 runners participated in the College Avenue Mile, raising over $30,000 combined for the two causes.

“Without (Anderson’s) support, we wouldn’t be able to have the running clubs as they exist today,” CPS Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark said.

Anderson also hosts a similar race in his hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Although he now lives in Connecticut for work, he was born in Iowa, raised in Wisconsin and went to school in Missouri.

“That’s about as Midwest as you can get,” he said. “This is where I am from. My roots are here. I owe a lot to the city of Columbia and the university. I just feel tied to the place.”

Anderson said he wanted to make the charity run in his college town unique and memorable for all those who chose to participate. That’s why he made the running course one mile down College Avenue.

“The 5K and 10K races are dimes a dozen, but there’re a lot of them, and we wanted to distinguish ourselves,” said Anderson, who ran track at Missouri. “Sure enough, we were able to get cooperation from the Department of Transportation and the City of Columbia. They gave us the road for a couple of hours, and that’s a special deal.”

Anderson said he sees his contribution as meeting the problem at the source.

“When you’re hungry, all you can think about is how hungry you are,” he said. “It’s hard to add two and two when you’re thinking about hunger.

“Even though it might not be reading, writing and arithmetic, feed them better and they concentrate better. Then, you help with the reading, writing and arithmetic.”

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