By Jeff Martin
Rick Jackson, co-owner of the Ilex Inn in Ellicottville, is waiting patiently for the arrival of a good friend.
That friend is Doug Flis, a Grimsby, Ontario, resident who is scheduled to arrive in the village by foot on Sept. 14.
Running since the mid-‘70s to improve his own health, Flis began running for charity soon after, for causes including heart and stroke, children’s hospitals and the notable Run for the Bus, which raised money for children in the Caribbean who couldn’t afford transportation needed to get to school.
On Sept. 14, Flis will come running into Ellicottville as part of a charity run to raise both money and awareness for mental health, specifically Camp New Horizons, an organization operated by the Mental Health Association in Cattaraugus County and the Canadian Mental Health Association.
The run will take Flis about 30 hours to complete. At 63, it’s a challenge, Flis told the Ellicottville Times in a June article.
For Jackson, Flis’s arrival will mark not only the chance to see his old friend but also to bring awareness to mental health issues — and to eat some chicken.
As many as 250 tickets have already been sold for the chicken barbecue event, which will be held at the Ilex Inn after Flis’s arrival in mid-afternoon. Tickets are $8 and money raised will benefit Camp New Horizons specifically.
“It’s a good cause, something both my wife and I think is important,” Jackson said.
Jackson met Flis the first time the runner came into the village. Since then, he and his wife, Glenda, have become good friends.
“He’s a great guy,” Jackson said. “We’re just hoping we can help him and his cause out as much as we can.”
Out of all the causes he has run for, mental health issues, specifically those that affect young adults, may be the cause that most concerns Flis.
“I’ve never spoken to anyone who hasn’t been touched by it,” Flis told the EVL Times in June, adding that bullying and teasing are huge concerns because they can often lead to solitary lives and, most troubling, suicide. And programs for these types of problems aren’t funded as much as others are.”
To train, Flis completes three 50-mile runs and long sessions on his elliptical machine. His wife, Jennifer Johnston, co-owns Grimsby Runners, a seller of running supplies and a training facility for professional and amateur runners. Together, with business demands and weekly running sessions, Flis keeps in shape.
In addition to his charity work, Flis has completed 75 marathons, including the Kona Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. He’s completed the Boston Marathon six times, helping over 20 people qualify for the marathon. Flis once ran a 115-mile race in 24 hours, one of his most significant accomplishments
Flis plans to arrive in the Main Street area of Ellicottville on Sept. 14. He hopes the youth of the area join him about three miles outside of town for the final push into town.
In addition to food, there will be music — Freddy and Friends will play from 3–6 p.m. — and a Chinese auction and raffle. Jackson said they are still accepting items for the events. He asks that people purchase tickets beforehand so that enough chicken can be purchased.
Derric McElheney, director for Camp New Horizons, said that he still plans on being in the village when Flis arrives. He said this year’s attendance number at the camp — 50 — was expected but that he hoped there had been more.
“But any kid we reach and help is an accomplishment,” McElheney said.
For more information, visit www.grimsbyrunners.com or call the Mental Health Association in Cattaraugus County at (716) 372-0208. Please call the Jacksons at the Ilex Inn at (716) 699-2002 for information about the BBQ event and ticket information.