I’ve gotten to know Karen and Mike over the years. We live just a block apart and share a mutual love for the furry, four-legged type as well as our neighborhood. The Connollys moved to Highland Park nearly 28 years ago and have seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood. “When we were looking for a home and landed in Highland Park, you couldn’t buy a house unless you knew someone. Houses rarely came on the open market,” reflects Karen. They’ve seen the shift from quieter years when most of the neighbors were “trending older” and kept to themselves to now, when children fill the sidewalks at Halloween and block parties are growing, annual traditions.
“Sometimes in the summer, when we’re sitting on the porch and we see families riding their bikes in the middle of the street it really is the ultimate in Americana. It’s been great to see young families move in and to hear little kids playing and laughing outside. Now at community events, Mike and I are the older neighbors and the makeup of the neighborhood looks like a Saturday afternoon hipster gathering at a local microbrewery,” says Karen.
As long as I’ve known them, the Connollys have been the kind of neighbors who love to bring an element of fun. Most recently, I’ve witnessed them participating in birthday parades for neighborhood children whose celebrations were made small because of the pandemic. I’ve seen them go to great lengths to hang what I’m convinced is one of the largest American flags in our city, as an ongoing reminder that “we’re in this together.” And I’ve seen them show up each cold, Thanksgiving morning to cheer on those participating in the Hamilton Thanksgiving 5k.
“It was time for me to return the favor,” says Karen, who has run her fair share of races in Cincinnati. With the turkey in the fryer, Beignets for the next-door neighbors, and the Chariots of Fire soundtrack playing over the sound system, the Connollys made sure there was something for everyone. If the music didn’t encourage people to keep moving, the promise of “More Pie 4 U” may have done the trick!
With the race growing to 1,100 participants this past year, the decision was made to move the course to downtown Hamilton. Karen and Mike say they are looking forward to seeing how others along the new race route will “take up the torch and provide their own twist on how to encourage runners. I hope they enjoy it as much as we have these past few years,”
We hope they do too, Karen and Mike.
Thank you for being the kind of people who make our neighborhood, city and country a better place. You inspire us to spread joy and cheer others on, especially during these trying times.