Fun Run to remember former student, promote responsible drinking

Former UW-Eau Claire senior Michael Noll always enjoyed the outdoors and being in the elements, said his father Jeff Noll.

On a day like Friday, with warm weather gracing the sky in late September, Noll wouldn’t have sat inside to do homework or watch movies – he would have immediately gone outside to fish or canoe on the Chippewa River.

“He definitely was an outdoor person and would always be with a friend or two or three,” Jeff Noll said.

Noll, who had been out celebrating his 22nd birthday on Water Street Nov. 6, 2002, was found dead around 6 p.m. March 25, 2003 in Half Moon Lake.

To keep his memory alive and to recognize his love for the outdoors and strong friendships, Jeff Noll and university officials decided it would be best to host an event honoring his memory, to bring people together and promote responsible choices regarding alcohol.

These attributes all will be featured in Eau Claire’s first Michael Noll Memorial Fun Run.

“I really want people to come out and have a good time and just ultimately realize that Michael Noll was a normal student,” said senior and event organizer Michelle Madsen. “Just one wrong turn and we lost his life.”

The 5K (3.1 mile) run will conclude the university’s National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week activities, which take place today through Saturday. Participants in the event will have the option of either walking the 5K stretch or running it. The top finishers will win prizes for their efforts, Madsen said.

“We’re hoping to have some fun with it,” she said.

The $15 registration will go to the Center for Alcohol Studies, said Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean for student development and diversity.

The course will start in the Haas Fine Arts parking lot. It will run through lower campus and Putnam Trail, ending where it started, she said.

Senior Chancellors Hall Resident Assistant Noah Haas, who plans to run, said he’s looking forward to Saturday and hopes he can gather enough support from his floor.

“We shouldn’t forget Michael, first of all, and we shouldn’t forget what happened,” Haas said. “This is a good way to remember.”

Thesing-Ritter said the center will need the funds, since $300,000 Department of Education grant is only for reducing high-risk drinking among first-year students.

“We want to extend beyond that (objective),” she said.

Jeff Noll said other fund-raisers in his son’s name are happening in Rochester, Minn., associated with the Michael Noll Foundation, which “supports educational programs, especially near areas of outdoor awareness,” he said.

A nature center in Rochester established a program in Noll’s name to provide outdoor experiences for secondary school students. Eau Claire developed a memorial scholarship for biology students, and the Noll family donated a kayak to Noll’s high school alma mater (Mayo High School) and hosted a golf outing fund-raiser in Wabasha, Minn.

Even with these commitments, Jeff Noll said he’ll be at the event when the participants take off from the parking lot.

“Students in a university setting have many challenges,” he said. “They need support. They need that shoulder to lean on. And that’s the message I hope is being brought out with this Fun Run.”