DONNA KERRIDGE OF CORUNNA and Nick Tereck, FOSR Board President, represent a unique coming-together of organizers as Kerridge has decided to move on from her longtime position with the Annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Friends of the Shiawassee River will be facilitating the event going forward. Kerridge will be helping them with the transition.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
Members of the Friends of the Shiawassee River (FOSR) have announced they will be stepping up to facilitate the popular Annual Labor Day Bridge Walk event, previously handled by longtime organizer Donna Kerridge of Corunna. This year, the walk will be held on Monday, Sept. 6.
Corunna Mayor Chuck Kerridge, serving 13 years in his position, announced in early March his current term will be his last, but along with his wife, Donna, they have been dedicated to seeing the Owosso/Corunna Bridge Walk continue. Donna Kerridge has been the force behind the Bridge Walk for many years, but with her husband retiring, she recently went public to seek another party interested in organizing the event.
The first Labor Day Bridge Walk began about 17 years ago as a joint venture between Owosso and Corunna, but it has evolved in numerous ways since its humble beginnings, with many improvements introduced by Donna.
The 3-1/2 mile event starts near Curwood Castle in Owosso and continues down the James S. Miner River Trail to McCurdy Park. Participants are welcome to run or walk, and the event concludes with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast in the Corunna Community Center in McCurdy Park. The community event includes people of all ages and from locations throughout Michigan, bringing together a mix of people to enjoy the outdoors and the scenic Shiawassee River.
Approximately three weeks ago, Donna contacted the Independent Newsgroup seeking to do a story on the Bridge Walk, and the Independent suggested she reach out to a couple of local organizations. One of them was Friends of the Shiawassee River Executive Director Lorraine Austin. Donna quickly reached out to Austin and connections were made, with FOSR soon excited to help out.
In a meeting at the FOSR office in Corunna on Monday, March 15, Donna shared she had a lot of early mixed emotions in making the decision to move beyond the Bridge Walk. “In my head, I was concerned that somebody wouldn’t want to do the job,” she said. “I didn’t know if I could find somebody.” She mentioned her husband had doubts, as well. The Bridge Walk is a large undertaking. The Kerridges were thrilled when FOSR expressed interest.
Donna is a meticulous organizer and actually has a complete t-shirt swatch collection for every River Walk event she has put together. The t-shirts have become popular collectibles for participants – and every year is commemorated by a specific color.
“When we moved our office here, we hoped to develop better relations between Owosso and Corunna,” Austin said, discussing the coming together between FOSR and the Kerridges. FOSR offices were previously located in Owosso. “I’ve got to know the folks at Corunna City Hall better. We’re really a broad organization.”
“This gives us a mindset that the river isn’t just Owosso-centric or Corunna-centric. We have an entire watershed,” offered Nick Tereck, FOSR Board President. The Shiawassee River is the most prominent geographical feature in Shiawassee County and the obvious connecting component between Owosso and Corunna, making the River Walk a logical event for FOSR – a rapidly growing nonprofit. FOSR is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021, as well, and the organization has expressed interest in further community involvement.
“I want to be here for you people,” Donna emphasized to Austin and Tereck. “I want to make sure you are comfortable with everything.” She plans on assisting FOSR in the transition this year. She described how in the early years of her involvement, she carefully listened to the participants and gleaned ideas from their suggestions. One of the big concerns early on, particularly for out-of-area people, was in figuring out a way to return to Owosso following the walk. Donna reached out to Indian Trails and was able to contract them for services. A second significant concern was lack of lavatory services, so Donna was able to offer porta johns. A third critical improvement was in registration, allowing her to identify and honor the age of participants.
“The river trail is really how the Friends began 25 years ago,” Tereck said. “The idea being people organizing and figuring out how to take care of the river, so now there is another connection with Friends and the River Walk.”
FOSR is now interested in seeking sponsorships. Preregistration will be made available on the website at shiawasseeriver.org, along with further details as the date approaches. Proceeds will help support maintenance and safety along the river trail and the care of the river.