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John DeDoncker cringes now at the memory. However, a quarter century ago, the Midwest Division president for TBK Bank was a self-admitted overweight, out-of-shape smoker. “The thought of running a marathon was a crazy idea to me,” Mr. DeDoncker laughed while considering the daunting 26.2-mile running challenge. “So, if you had told me 25 years ago that I would now have 30 marathons, 2 Ironman’s (triathlons) and 20 ultra-marathons under my belt, I would have said you’re smoking something. But this race made it all happen.” Looking to establish a reputation for community involvement as a newcomer to the area 21 years ago, TBK Bank became the title sponsor of the fledgling Quad Cities Marathon. The brainchild of local running promoter Joe Moreno, the race first got on its feet in 1998 as a fundraiser for the original iteration of the QC Sports Commission. TBK Bank was among the first sponsors when the QC Marathon became a separate entity. “When we got involved, it was a ‘hair club’ moment for me – you know, I’m not just a sponsor, but a customer,” said Mr. DeDoncker, an East Moline native and Alleman High School graduate. “I started running and developed a real love for it because I saw the benefits beyond the positives of corporate involvement. It chokes me up because it became very personal to me. I am passionate about this race because it changed my life for better -- and it matters like that to a lot more than just me.” With TBK Bank’s enduring support the past two decades, the event has grown to include seven race distances; 5,000 participants prior to the pandemic; and 49 logos recognizing major sponsors this year on the QC Marathon website – not including the $100 mile-marker sponsors, according to Mr. Moreno. Visit Quad Cities projects a $1.1 million local economic impact from this year’s event, which runs Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25, along the Mississippi River in Bettendorf, Davenport, Rock Island and Arsenal Island. The start/finish is in downtown Moline between John Deere Commons and the newly renamed Vibrant Arena at The Mark. “It’s emotional personally and very satisfying as a sponsor all at the same time,” Mr. DeDoncker said when considering the event’s continued growth. “We even paid our full sponsorship in 2020 when it was a virtual race because of COVID. We did that because we believe in this event’s message and mission so much. You can’t let great organizations like this die on the vine during tough years – so no way we were going to allow that to happen.” Mr. DeDoncker added his ownership group also was intent on sending a message this year about the future of the marathon by extending the naming rights deal five years to the 30th anniversary in 2027. “We care about the Quad Cities,” Mr. DeDoncker said. “The better the Quad Cities does, the better we do. We want to be good citizens and neighbors. We also love this event. We’ve got 20 years already invested in helping build this race – so why would I in a million years want somebody else to step in our shoes when we’ve got a fabulous thing going? It brings so much goodwill to our bank.” Mr. Moreno said the trickle-down effect to TBK’s continued commitment is nearly a dozen new sponsors this year. “Coming off of the pandemic, we were concerned because the effects are still being felt by so many businesses and industries,” Mr. Moreno said. He noted last fall’s comeback was still muted by COVID restrictions and concerns. “But now that we’re really restarting this year, it’s amazing almost all of our pre-pandemic sponsors are back despite trying to survive their own business challenges – along with some new (sponsors), and hopefully that says a lot about us being a good investment.” According to Assistant Race Director Laura Wittnebel, sponsorship can be as simple as $100 for the racecourse mile markers up to $5,000 for the largest supporters below TBK’s naming rights deal, which annually offsets a nearly $23,000 prize pool. Other sponsorship levels include a $500 exhibitor booth fee at the Active Endeavors Health & Fitness Expo & Packet Pick-Up inside Vibrant Arena. “Everyone has to come and get their packet and they’re usually bringing friends or family,” Ms. Wittnebel said. “It’s also open to the public, so getting to see (an estimated) 10,000 people in eight hours is great value for $500.” Businesses also can get involved by volunteering their property or employees – sometimes both – for such amenities as water stations or spectator spots. Some companies also compete in the Necker’s Jewelers Corporate Challenge to see which business boasts the most race participants. That makes the most popular race for businesses the marathon relay, where five-person teams compete. Mr. Moreno said continued improvement in business involvement is vital, though. So his 60-plus member committee is working with Visit Quad Cities to bring together hotels, restaurants, and local attractions to offer special discounts and visitor packages. “The value that (the marathon) continues to bring to our region is tremendous,” said Dave Herrell, Visit Quad Cities president and CEO. “In addition, TBK Bank’s corporate leadership is critically important, as are the many sponsors, volunteers, vendors, and amazing QC Marathon team that bring this event to life each year. … The TBK Bank Quad Cities Marathon brings us together and helps showcase our region in a fully activated way, which is great for our regional economy and our community’s sense of civic pride.” As an example of the event’s impact, Mr. Moreno points to the Fleet Feet in Davenport. The small business is approaching a seventh anniversary in November, and owner Phil Young said the store has grown along with increasing its marathon support, which now includes title sponsorship of Saturday’s “Shake-out Run” and marathon training program. “Stepping up our sponsorship over the years has turned out to be good business for us,” said Mr. Young. But even for businesses not directly connected to local runners, Mr. DeDoncker notes the return on investment has been handsome, too. TBK Bank has grown into a major player locally, he said, thanks in part to name recognition from sponsorships of the QC Marathon and the expanding TBK Bank Sports Complex & Entertainment Center in Bettendorf. “I’m blessed to work for a community-minded ownership group that has faith and confidence in me that when I say here are the things we need to support because they make our community a better place to live, they never tell me ‘no,’” Mr. DeDoncker said. “I’m thrilled to work for people who really do care about the communities that we’re in and we’re able to make things like this happen. Unfortunately, a lot of other organizations aren’t like that when I look at what we’re doing in the Quad Cities. But I can honestly hold my head high knowing we are great citizens and neighbors and great supporters of a healthy, active lifestyle and the payoff is from the loyal business partners we continue to attract.”