SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- When Tim Kee is tasked with challenge, he doesn't let a little thing like a global pandemic get in his way.
Kee, who teaches second grade at Johnston City's Jefferson School, is also a civil rights activist of sorts.
Just before COVID-19, Kee was a contestant in the SI Pride Pageant, one of the fundraising efforts for the Rainbow Café in Carbondale.
Kee was unsure about doing the pageant but agreed because he believed in the cause.
Even though the pageant was postponed when the state went on shelter in place orders, Kee's efforts blew the past fundraising out of the water.
"Last year the Pride Pageant ... when you put all the people together, raise $240," said Kee, who single-handedly raised $1,603.
"That," he said, "is how I got appointed to do the fundraising (for SI Pride)."
Kee said it was an easy "yes" to help out since he believes in the mission of the Rainbow Café.
Located in Carbondale, the Rainbow Café provides a safe and welcoming environment for area youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/gender expansive, queer, intersex, asexual, or questioning their orientation and/or gender identity, and their friends, by creating a space in which they are affirmed and offered nonjudgmental support and access to personal, community, spiritual, and health resources.
Kee said after his pageant "success," Rainbow Café board chair Tara Bell-Janowick asked him to handle fundraising.
While Southern Illinois Pride usually does a 5K run/walk, the current social distancing guidelines looked like that might prohibit, or at least severely limit participation.
Kee was undeterred.
An avid runner, Kee decided to do the event as a "virtual" run.
"They're really popular," he said, adding that he is currently completing an 80-mile river to river run.
"You just log in your miles everyday and it shows you on your route where you would be on the map," he said.
Registration is currently underway for the SI Pride Fest 5K online at www. runsignup.com/Race/IL/AnyCityAnyState/SouthernIllinoisPrideFest5K.
The entry fee is $20 and medals will be awarded at the completion of the event.
"It's a good cause and anyone from anywhere can participate," said Kee, who said he has relatives in Chicago that are signed up for the event. He said the event welcomes everyone.
"You can run walk, roller skate, or just donate," he said.
Kee said he hopes to raise a "couple thousand" for the Rainbow Café.
"It's a cool place," he said. "They do a lot of things for the kids and the community. They help the LGBTQ youth that have been cast out by parents. It's a place for them to gather."
He also said that asking for help is something that he's grown used to doing.
"I've been doing it too long," he said. "I'm not afraid to pick up the phone and ask for anything."