- Associated Press - Friday, April 18, 2014

LAPEER, Mich. (AP) - A new Christian-themed mud run has added an unusual twist to the barbed wire and flames that have become commonplace at similar events.

The opportunity to carry an 8-foot-tall cross to the top of a hill.

“The whole idea behind (Jesus) dying on the cross was to forgive our sins,” race organizer Michael O’Neill told The Flint Journal ( https://bit.ly/Q6tjAq ). “I thought it would be cool if we could experience carrying that cross up the hill - without the pain and suffering, obviously.”

The 5K Cross Course run set for June 14 at the Michigan Christian Youth Camp in Attica is to raise money for Little Dresses for Africa, a group that provides handmade dresses individually crafted from pillow cases in the U.S. for children of Africa living in orphanages, churches and schools.

The 3.11-mile obstacle course will lead runners through trails and pastures to encounter more than 15 obstacles along the way, including a mud crawl, wall climb, rope swing, slip and slide, tires, cargo climb, up and overs, mud bomb forest, cross carry and the pit.

The halfway point of the course features a stop where runners have the option of picking up crosses ranging in size from 2 to 8 feet tall and carrying them up a hill. At the top of the hill, there will be a chapel where participants can drop their crosses and say a quick prayer.

“(People can) use it to take a moment to get rid of our own sins and give them to Jesus,” said O’Neill.

Participants are allowed to run, walk or jog, and all of the obstacles throughout the course are optional.

“You don’t have to be in shape to do this. Anyone that can walk can do this,” said O’Neill, who said he felt a calling from above to put on the event.

“I created Cross Course Mud Run to benefit a charity that is close to my heart - Little Dresses for Africa,” said O’Neill. “In 2008, my mother founded this charity after visiting Africa and recognizing the children’s need for simple clothing, and more importantly, to show the little girls that they are worthy and to boost their self-esteem. She has inspired so many to help and has distributed over 2.5 million dresses for deserving little girls in Africa,” he said.

Several hundred people have already registered for the race, but the O’Neills hope to have 1,000 participants.

Megan Frump, 35, from Southgate, will be driving to Lapeer for the day to participate in the run with her husband.

An amateur 5K runner, both Frump and her husband placed in a Biggest Loser competition at their church, where members were challenged to lose weight.

Frump was surprised to hear that there would be crosses available to carry, but said she will definitely carry one. “I think that’s pretty awesome,” she said.

Chris Frump, 37, said that he likes the symbolism associated with carrying the cross, “doing the same thing that Jesus Christ did for us,” he said.

“It’s something to challenge us. A lot of other runs have a party-type atmosphere. We’re really looking forward to this run more than others because we’ll be surrounded by people that have the same walk of faith as we do.”

“I love the cause. I love his mom’s organization, Little Dresses for Africa. Mike’s passion behind everything is really awesome. I love the fact that it’s mixing a good cause, a healthy activity and God all in one,” said Megan Frump.

Rachel O’Neil said she hopes her son will raise the $20,000 it will cost to fill a 40-foot container with more than half a million pillow-case dresses and pants for boys, furniture and medical supplies.

In addition, the container will carry school supplies for the 450 children who attend a primary school that Little Dresses for Africa built in the country of Malawi, including desks, paper, pens, globes, maps, chalk and chalkboards, to name a few.

The 40-foot container will stay in Africa to be used for food storage after the supplies are emptied. Rachel O’Neill will travel to Africa to distribute the container’s contents once it is shipped.

“We’ve had a tremendous response from all over the United States, but until we get the clothes on the backs of these children, our job is not complete. Getting the items shipped over there is our biggest challenge. We’re not just sending dresses, we’re sending hope,” she said.

It is Michael O’Neill’s hope that if the race succeeds, Cross Course could be used as an avenue for other ministries to raise money. “It doesn’t have to be for Little Dresses. We could pack it up and bring Cross Course to any location that wants to put it on, but it will always be Christ-centered,” he said.

Cross Course will begin at 10 a.m. at Michigan Christian Youth Camp in Lapeer. Participants have to bring a signed waiver to compete, according to the event’s website.

Participants should come early to enjoy an alcohol-free environment with a variety of food vendors, moonwalks for children and a spectator area. There will be prizes for best costume, team name and outfit.

The Christian band Alive City will play live music for an hour of worship at 2 p.m. at the end of the race.

Registration ends April 30 for $60 and late registration ends June 14 for $70.

All participants will receive a free T-shirt. Parking will be available at three locations, with a shuttle running every 10 minutes. Parking will be $5 per car.

To register for Cross Course, visit www.crosscourse.org. For more information on Little Dresses for Africa, visit www.littledressesforafrica.org/blog/.


Information from: The Flint Journal, https://www.mlive.com/flint

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