Collaboration At Its Best

Credit unions demonstrate cooperative values and the spirit of volunteerism on race day.


On the morning of April 7, 2013, a specific team of 20 volunteers will gather together for the ninth year in order to prepare water stations for competitors during Washington DC’s iconic Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run®.

Headed up by Debbie Connors, president and CEO of Money One Federal Credit Union ($103M, Largo, MD), this particular volunteer group consists not only of individuals from Connors’ own family but board members, staff, family, and friends from her credit union, as well as neighboring institutions like FedChoice Federal Credit Union ($318M, Lanham, MD), U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union ($200M, Clinton, MD), and other cooperative business partners.

Money One has been a proud supporter of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run since credit unions first became its title sponsors in 2002, and Connors has spent the past nine years not only mobilizing volunteer efforts for this cause but recruiting and sponsoring runners for the event as well.

Her group makes up just a handful of the more than 600 credit union volunteers and 2,100 total volunteers who support the race in various ways. These individuals may sport logo t-shirts from their specific coopertive or special volunteer vests that say “Credit Unions Make the Difference.” The words “Credit Union” also appear nearly everywhere along the race route, from the starting line to the finish.

Like the runners, these many volunteers are driven by one singular desire: to make a difference in the lives of children in need by securing them medical care at one of the nation’s outstanding Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

A Day In The Life Of A Volunteer

Anyone who has participated in the Run before knows that Water Stop #3 at mile six of the race is the meeting spot of choice, and Connors has managed to secure this same idyllic location every year.

Starting at 6:30 AM, volunteers receive their assignments for this stop and soon after, preparations for the race are well under way. The early spring morning is usually dark and chilly, and the weather doesn’t always cooperate, but that doesn’t interfere with the spirit of these volunteers and their mission.

At around 7:20 AM, 10 tables with a total of 10,000 cups are filled and stacked, but while waiting for the race to begin, volunteers may take a few moments to enjoy the beauty of the sun rise and the abundant cherry blossoms, as well as reflect on the cause being supported. The view — on Hains Point overlooking the Potomac River — is magnificent, and Reagan National Airport can be seen directly across the river.

The ten miler starts at precisely 7:30 AM, but elite runners will flash past this location by about 8:00 AM, with top candidates reaching up to a 4:32 minute mile pace. Another huge mass of runners arrive at around 8:45 AM, ready to quench their thirst. The pace on the flat course is very fast and participants’ adrenaline is typically very high by this point. Some are hitting their wall, so hydration is an especially welcomed prospect.


From there, volunteers will spend much of the morning announcing “water” to more waves of incoming runners, while also directing those who would prefer a sports drink toward the proper area. A special technique is used to distribute these beverages. The volunteer’s arms must be stretched out toward the runner and the cup is held by the fingertips along the top rim, allowing the runner to get a firm grip without interrupting their pace.

Even with a perfect hand off, volunteers always get splashed. That’s why the water section of this stop is typically preferred over the sports drink section, which can get very sticky.

Temporary Work, Lasting Reward

The morning ends around 10:30 AM with everyone migrating the cups that the runners have thrown over to one side of the street for a sweep truck.

When the last task is completed, volunteers hug, say their goodbyes, and leave with a warm feeling, a new perspective, or a unique sense of accomplishment. They also receive an official race t-shirt with long sleeves, so they can continue to take pride in this important cause and help spread awareness to others they meet.

With over 15,000 finishers expected at this year’s race, the next Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run will be truly be a fun and rewarding day for all involved.

Debbie Connors has worked in the credit union industry since November 1980. Her career has included executive management positions at a corporate credit union, natural person credit unions and consulting. She has been the President/CEO of Money One FCU since September 2000.

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is part of Credit Union Miracle Day’s Family of Races, the single largest Credit Unions for Kids fundraising event and the recipient of the 2013 National Credit Union Foundation’s Outstanding Program Award. The Family of Races also includes the Credit Union SacTown Ten-Mile Run in Sacramento, California and two Freedom Runs for our troops overseas. For more information or for business partner opportunities, visit or email