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Participants needed for fundraising Martian odyssey

Walk Around Mars
Orthodontist Stephanie Rhoads, owner of Rhoads Orthodontics in Cranberry Township, shows off a Marty the Martian inflatable, a photo opportunity in one of the side competitions in the upcoming “Walk Around Mars” fundraiser to benefit the Mars Planet Foundation. The event asks participants to walk miles in an attempt to equal the 13,263-mile circumference of the planet Mars. Eric Freehling/Butler Eagle

CRANBERRY TWP — Time’s nearly up to register for the “Walk Around Mars” fundraiser staged by the Mars Planet Foundation. The deadline to sign up for a virtual journey around the red Planet is Wednesday, March 15.

Walkers can register by going to the website https://bit.ly/WalkAroundMars and clicking onto the pop-up ad, said Tricia Holland, secretary of the Mars Planet Foundation.

From April 16 to May 6, participants are asked to trek 26.5 miles to collectively reach the 13, 263 miles that make up one lap around the planet Mars. Participants will be asked to post pictures on social media.

Because the walk is virtual, anyone — whether they live in Mars, have friends and family in the community, or are alumni of Mars Area School District, who may live anywhere in the world — will be able to participate.

“Walk Around Mars” has two goals. One is to raise money for the Mars Planet Foundation to provide teacher grants to enhance learning opportunities of all students in the Mars district and to continue making possible the selection and awarding of scholarships for students to continue their education beyond their Mars experience.

The money is raised by the $25 registration fee for individuals and $20 for each additional individual if signing up as a family.

“It’s our major fundraiser,” Holland said. “The proceeds go to scholarships for seniors in the school district and teacher enrichment grants.

“Any teacher from kindergarten through 12th grade in the district can apply for a grant to try out a new project or get a new piece of equipment such as a 3D printer for their classroom,” she said.

And secondly, organizers want to achieve the goal of completing the 13,263 miles that would constitute walking the actual distance it would take to complete a lap around Earth’s neighbor in the solar system.

“Basically, it’s a virtual walk,” said orthodontist Stephanie Rhoads, owner of Rhoads Orthodontics in Cranberry Township and one of the business sponsors of the event. “The idea is to raise money for the foundation; it’s one of their biggest, if not biggest fundraiser.”

“My kids go to Mars. I try, in general, to support all the school fundraisers,” Rhoads said. “Because of the extra, the teacher grants that aren’t in the budget, I think it is important for the school district.”

Rhoads said this is the second year for the fundraiser.

Holland said one of the foundation’s board members, Carol Knox, came up with the idea.

“We were just coming out of COVID, and people were still using safe practices,” Holland said. “We wanted to engage the community, so we came up with the virtual walks. It was very challenging at first, but there was so much community spirit.”

She said the inaugural Walk Around Mars in 2021 netted about $26,000 raised by 315 registrants.

“Our goal is to surpass $30,000 this year,” Holland said.

In addition to trying to get enough participants to walk the miles required to match the circumference of Mars, Holland said there will be four community competitions.

There will be a teacher competition where the teacher with the most students registered for the walk will win an individual and classroom prize, a building competition where the school building with the highest percentage of students registered wins the Walk Around Mars trophy, and the alumni competition where school district alumni send in a picture to show what they are doing now.

Rhoads said the fourth competition involves taking as many selfies as you can with the “Marty the Martian” inflatable which will be found in the businesses who have sponsored this year’s Walk Around Mars.

But first, Holland said, those registered can pick up their T-shirts and swag bags from 4:30 to 7 p.m. April 12 and 13 at the Mars Area High School cafeteria.

Then they can start accumulating their miles before the May 6 end of the event.

That includes Rhoads.

“We will all be registered as a family,” she said. “I have three kids and a husband, and we will all be walking and logging our miles.”

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