Sherwood man goes all out for third and final charity run to benefit children's clothing charity

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jason Zacher is participating in another relay race as a solo runner for charity, this time for Assistance League in Beaverton. He hopes to raise $7,500 dollars, which would clothe 100 children.Jason Zacher is a dedicated athlete and charity volunteer, but he doesn’t sugar-coat the physical reality of running alone from Beaverton to Eugene with naïve enthusiasm.

“The idea is to stay as healthy as I can ahead of time,” he said on Tuesday afternoon. “Because the run’s gonna be a beatdown.”

A beatdown, that is, with a noble purpose.

For the third year in a row, the Sherwood resident is running a considerable distance to raise money and awareness for a charitable organization. On Thursday, June 19, as part of the annual Epic Oregon Relay race, he’ll set out from the Big Al’s parking lot at 14950 S.W. Barrows Road on Jason’s Epic Adventure: a meandering, 188-mile route to Eugene to assist Operation School Bell. The philanthropic program, which provides Hillsboro and Beaverton school district students from kindergarten through sixth grade with new clothes, is affiliated with the Beaverton-based Assistance League of Greater Portland.

Unlike the other 70 teams of 12 runners, Zacher will be pounding the pavement mostly on his own, exclusively to assist Operation School Bell.

“I was very touched when they gave me a tour and I saw what they did in providing brand new clothing for children in need,” he said of the organization. “Every penny I raise goes directly to the charity.”

To augment the pledges he's channeling to the operation, Zacher will hold his third hamburger-based barbecue fundraiser on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at his workplace of Bales Thriftway, 12675 N.W. Cornell Road. For $5, customers get a fresh-grilled burger, potato salad donated by Reser’s Fine Foods, chips and a drink.

Despite rainfall during a similar event in mid March, Zacher, with reinforcements from the Assistance League and Operation School Bell, raised $805 in four hours. While it's a labor of love, he admits getting ready for the run is more stressful than the two-day journey itself.

“This has been a huge undertaking,” he said. “The training and planning and fundraising is immense.”

With various businesses donating to Operation School Bell in exchange for event sponsorships and banners on his run support van, Zacher covers his own expenses so every donated penny goes to charity. Other donations come from individuals who read or hear about the run and make individual contributions.

As his date of departure draws closer, Zacher, 43, is training up to five days a week, in spurts of 5 to 8 miles and longer stretches between 17 to 23 miles. At this point, he’s not as concerned about achieving a certain time as he is about raising $7,500. The amount would provide 100 eligible children in Beaverton and Hillsboro with new clothing through Operation School Bell.

“This is the last fundraising run I am ever going to do,” he said. “So I am pulling out all the stops to make it really special and to raise the most money I can.”

If all goes well, Zacher expects to reach the Epic Oregon Relay finish line by 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, June 21, about 48 hours after his feet leave Big Al’s for the open road.

While other relay runners — paid to be part of a team — are likely to finish their routes before him, organizers assured Zacher they will wait on him before breaking down the finish line.

"They are great," he said of the relay folks.

Last year, Zacher’s ultimate destination was Lincoln City, which, at 100 miles, is a virtual hop, skip and jump compared to his upcoming Eugene trek. He raised close to $5,000 to benefit the Salvation Army Beaverton Family Veterans Center on Farmington Road, and Angels Anonymous, a Lincoln City-based group that helps needy families pay expenses such as utility bills.

Operation School Bell Director Linda Springer didn’t miss a beat when Zacher approached her and Judy Lancaster, the program’s clothing buyer, with his uniquely physical charitable idea.

“I said, ‘Fantastic!’ Bless his big heart,” she said. “This is the first time this has ever happened for us. It’s such good publicity for us. We’re probably one of the best-kept secrets around here.”

Launched in 1998, Operation School Bell operates out of the Assistance League of Portland’s thrift store outlet at 4000 S.W. 117th Ave., off Canyon Road. The league will celebrate its 50th anniversary of charitable service in June.

Lancaster, a Tigard resident, travels to showcases to find below-market price children’s clothing to distribute to eligible children in the Beaverton and Hillsboro areas.

“Each child gets a winter jacket, two pairs of jeans, two tops, a pack of underwear, six pairs of socks and a shoe card that allows $22 at Payless,” she said. “We’re focusing on 1,000 kids this year.”

While the time and effort to accomplish them convinced him not to do a fourth charity run next year, Zacher admitted the part where he pounds the pavement to Eugene for two days will come as a relative relief.

“It gets to the point where running is the easy part,” he said.

You can help

What: Barbecue fundraiser for Jason's Epic Adventure on June 19 to benefit Operation School Bell/Assistance League of Portland

When: Saturday, May 10, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: Bales Thriftway Market, 12675 N.W. Cornell Road

Goal: To raise "travel" expense money for Jason Zacher's run from Beaverton to Eugene

To donate or for more information: Visit

Back on track

A track runner in high school, Sherwood resident Jason Zacher took a 20-year break before lacing up his shoes again for a 10k McMinnville race that he won. Since then, he’s completed a half marathon in Lincoln City along with his most lengthy journey to date — a 52.5-mile run around the Taft High School track last August as part of the Lincoln City Relay for Life.

"I'm the healthiest I've ever been," he said of his latest training regimen, which he fits in around his early morning and graveyard shifts at Bales. "This is the farthest into training I've been without having aches and pains."

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