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‘You call, they’re here’: Bloomsday volunteers prep finisher T-shirts to mail across the world

UPDATED: Fri., May 14, 2021

Bloomsday volunteers Tracie Puthoff, left, and Tracey Everts on Friday fold and prep some of the 23,700 finisher T-shirts from this year’s race for mailing and distribution.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Bloomsday volunteers Tracie Puthoff, left, and Tracey Everts on Friday fold and prep some of the 23,700 finisher T-shirts from this year’s race for mailing and distribution. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Four folds, then the bag.

Bloomsday volunteers were fairly consistent Friday morning with packing finisher T-shirts for the 22,301 people registered for this year’s 12k race. While the shirts are typically distributed after the finish line, the nature of Bloomsday Worldwide – a virtual event due to COVID-19 concerns – necessitated a mailing process.

Humming along by around 10:30 a.m. with about 700 shirts packed every 15 minutes, Race Director Jon Neill said, volunteer organizers hoped to have at least three-fourths of the stock bagged by the end of the first day.

“They’re moving at a lightning pace,” Neill said. “Volunteers are extraordinary.”

Volunteers set up shop Friday at the Lilac Bloomsday Association’s North Belt Street headquarters.

The plan for Friday and Saturday was solely shirt packaging. Next week, volunteers will mobilize again to apply packaging labels and sort the bags by ZIP code for mailing May 23.

During a traditional Bloomsday, finisher shirts are distributed following the race when runners turn in receipts attached to the top of their racing numbers, said volunteer coordinator Patti Bailey.

This year’s Bloomsday Worldwide will see shirts mailed to registrants from at least 22 countries.

“This has been a new challenge,” said Bailey, who has volunteered for Bloomsday since 1987, “but we seem to be persevering through the whole thing and having a great time as usual.”

Volunteers started with medium shirts, the highest quantity of the sizes ordered, Bailey said. Each bag was also packed with a commemorative 2021 finisher postcard.

Following last year’s experience, volunteer coordinator Connie Bischoff said the group is taking special care not to overlap the different shirt sizes to keep them organized.

“Many of these volunteers also helped out with last year’s virtual race, so many of them already understand the process and have helped us create efficiencies with getting it done quicker,” Neill said. “That’s just kind of the Bloomsday way just with how serious our volunteers take it. They’re always looking for ways to improve and make it better.”

More than three dozen volunteers commanded the early effort Friday morning. Some were expected to be relieved that afternoon by volunteers from Premera Blue Cross and Quantum Financial Planning, Bailey said.

The approximately 500 volunteers used to run Bloomsday Worldwide is a far cry from the 4,500 to 5,000 needed for non-COVID Bloomsday events. Given that the effort offers a “community service, camaraderie, family kind of thing,” Bailey said it’s sad a lot of the race’s volunteers could not participate this time around due to COVID-19 constraints.

“It’s a wonderful group of volunteers,” said Barb Hain, who has volunteered with the event for at least 35 years. “They’re always: You call, they’re here. They are very dedicated to Bloomsday.”

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