Francis foundation races return Sept. 21

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Runners leave the Square Lake Park starting line for the 2012 Jon Francis Foundation races. This year’s races are Sept. 21 at the park north of Stillwater. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

Quotes that will be stenciled on the front and back of runners shirts sum up the reason for the Jon Francis Foundation races.

“A Great Race for a Great Cause” appears on the front of the 2013 runner’s shirts, and a quote on the shirt backs reads, “It’s not what we gather, but what we scatter in the world, that defines us.” – Jon Francis.

Jon Francis’ father, David, said his son, a religion major at Augustana College, wrote the words appearing on the shirt backs in 2004 in one of his college papers on theology. David Francis said the foundation is using his son’s wisdom for two reasons: It defines Jon Francis’ brief life of selfless service to others and captures the essence of the Jon Francis Foundation (JFF) Races.

The races are Sept. 21 at Square Lake Park north of Stillwater and directly benefits the St. Croix Valley. The event funds the work of the non-profit foundation and several community service organizations in the Twin Cities.

“We give back to the community,” said David Francis, JFF’s cofounder and executive director.

Many local business partners, like Lakeview Health, PowerUp, St. Croix Orthopaedics and Great Harvest Bread display their social responsibility and generosity by sponsoring the JFF Races. In turn, JFF contributes race proceeds to Stillwater community outreach organizations, like Youth Advantage, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, Family Means, Boy Scouts of America and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension.

This year, JFF will fulfill a long overdue promise to establish a scholarship in Jon Francis’ name and memory at Stillwater Area High School. The race is named in honor of Jon Francis, who grew up in Stillwater and ran the roads of the course as a high school athlete.

David Francis often jokes that “the recipient of the Jon Francis Scholarship will be a three sport athlete at Stillwater High School who attends Augustana College to earn a degree in religion.  That was Jon’s personal journey.”

However, recipients and requirements will be worked out jointly with the high school.

Starting at 9 a.m., at Square Lake Park, the 13.1-mile half-marathon follows a beautiful and challenging course on rolling hills and rural roads past lakes, farms, forest and open fields with breathtaking views and vistas. A shorter 8K race circles Square Lake under an canopy of trees. The PowerUp 1K Fun Run is a short course designed for families and young runners and is free to children under age 12 and their families.

With the help of their community partners, JFF serves an at-risk population of outdoor hikers, climbers, campers, and hunters who go out the wilderness inadequately informed and poorly prepared. Their free Wilderness Safety Education classes are designed to prevent loss and injury in the backcountry. They are held at locations provided by Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, 45 Degrees North in Stillwater and Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul.

The Stillwater-based Jon Francis Foundation was created in 2007 to honor the life and ministry of Jon Francis and continue his legacy of service. The foundation exists to educate, advocate, empower and guide on behalf of wilderness safety and missing adults. Like the cairn of their logo, the Jon Francis Foundation provides knowledge and acts as a guide to others.

Anyone interested in running the Jon Francis Foundation Races can find information and register at Visit to learn more about the foundation.