After almost five years, we say goodbye to CARA Director of Partnerships Alona Banai. Her final workday for CARA is July 31, as she makes the cross country move to a new home in Seattle. Her role has evolved over the years, she has seen many organizational changes, and she has met many friendly CARA faces.
Alona originally began her journey at CARA when she became a member in 2007. She later became an intern at CARA and knew she wanted to merge her passions and work full-time at our non-profit running organization. She worked hard as an intern and was brought on as a full-time employee in August of 2014.
A lot has changed in Chicago running since Alona first became a CARA member. When talking about the history she says, “There are so many more ways to get involved with running in 2019 vs. when I first joined CARA. My involvement in the Chicago running scene started when I moved back to Chicago after undergrad in 2006. I was running with the Northwestern Cross Country team and moved to Oak Park where I joined CARA as a member in 2007. At that time competitive running, marathon training and road racing were the major avenues for runners. The CARA Circuit was booming and the Chicago Marathon was open to everyone (no lottery!). Today both of those options are still extremely desirable but there are also way more options both within CARA and in Chicago running at large (more clubs, experiential races and more). It's amazing to see how far Chicago running has come over the last 10 years and I'm excited to see it grow even more in the future!”
Chicago running has come a long way. Alona saw the changes in the community as she was changing roles at CARA. Her experience and ability to connect with people so well led her to the Partnerships role. Her positive attitude and attention to detail helped her create lasting relationships with so many loved CARA partners. We know many partners will miss working with her.
“Through all of CARA’s growth and change over recent years, Alona has been there helping the organization develop the resources we needed to drive that growth.”, says CARA Executive Director Greg Hipp.
Working at CARA was a perfect fit for Alona. She mentioned, “Working at CARA was one of my major career goals. A way to merge my passion with my career has been a blessing and has changed my life for the better in more ways than I can describe in words. For those of you who don't know, my undergraduate and graduate degrees were focused in science but my passion has always been in running, health and fitness. After working for a couple years in academics and being completely miserable I had the opportunity to work for CARA as an intern. I absolutely loved it and kept my eye out for positions that fit my skill set. I went on to work for a management consulting firm for four years and before I was hired as a full time staff member at CARA in 2014. Working at CARA has helped me grow both as a professional and a runner as well as a person. The amazing people I met along the way both within CARA, the staff, members, board and our partners have left an impression on me that will last a lifetime.”
“Alona has had a personal passion for CARA, and we’ll miss that. But she helped leave the organization in a better place. She helped us recruit and build great partnerships and an incredible staff that will continue the good work she has been a part of.”, says Hipp.
Alona helped create the camaraderie and community amongst the CARA Staff. She organized social events, remembered birthdays, and encouraged lunch runs. It led to a lot of great memories.
“I have so many favorite memories! Our all staff run at work day last September, being at CARA Headquarters laughing at silly jokes and light banter, the CARA Appreciation party last October, the staff and board holiday party at the CARA office last December, running with our members at Six Series, coffee breaks and meetings with Greg, outings with the CARA staff ladies, even the long days that we put in for Wintrust Lakefront 10, Orangetheory Fitness Ready to Run and Michelob Ultra Marathon VIP!”
Sadly, we have to wish Alona farewell. We know she has loved her time at CARA and we can’t wait to see what she takes on next!
Thank you Alona for all you have done for CARA and Chicagoland running community. We know our members will miss you!