Jeff Furton
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Jeff Furton

Written By: Cindy Reinhard

“What does Ogden need?”

A voice. A friend. An advocate. Patience. Some luck. And, apparently? A Marathon.

You most likely know Jeff Furton, and even if you don’t, Jeff would count you as a friend. Spending a few minutes in Jeff’s company, it’s clear that’s how he sees everyone – as friends. Furton, often seen sporting a big straw hat Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market, and his wife, Beth, are Ogden community staples. Part of that is due to their popular coffee shop, The Daily Rise (try their Ethiopian Blend – it’s my favorite!), and part of that is due a non-profit known as The GOAL Foundation and an infamous event we all know as the Ogden Marathon.

Ogden might be the highlight of the Northern Wasatch Front now and a destination spot for those who love being outdoors, but fifteen years ago, when Furton landed here, it had all the outdoor attractions, but no love; not even from most who lived here. Historic 25th Street, now a popular place to gather, was a place to avoid while Washington Boulevard boasted an empty field where an old mall once stood. It was not the place anyone wanted to be. Except Jeff.

Jeff grew up in a small, tight knit community in Michigan - the type of place where everyone raised everybody else’s kids. That belief in the power of community and the sense of belonging it provides, shaped Furton into who he is today. He could see that Ogden was on the verge of something great and he wanted in. Jeff is, in every way, a practical visionary. He can see the potential of something easily, but alongside the idealist is a man willing to do whatever it takes to see it through to fruition.

It started with a visit to the mayor’s office and a simple question, “What can I do?” The mayor encouraged Jeff to get connected with the GOAL Foundation. There he found others who knew what Ogden could be and believed that events like the marathon would help revitalize the city.

It started small. The first year Jeff volunteered at the finish line. The next year they found a way to connect Daily Rise by providing smoothies to the runner’s Expo the night before. Then for the next few years Jeff and his crew from Daily Rise became the “cocoa and coffee guys” at the end of the marathon. And then? He was asked to join the Board of the GOAL Foundation. They were looking for someone to get a youth program up and running and that would develop the “Kids K,” an all-kids running event, on race day.

So how does one build a youth program? Well, according to Furton, you look at the bigger picture. “What does Ogden need?” he asked, “You look at the runners. The typical demographic for runners in the United States, are upper - middle class white people, but that’s not our demographic here in Ogden. So how do we change a community and grow our race at the same time? We need to include everybody in Ogden and bring them together and we can do that through the youth.” It was out of this vision that the Young Runners Club was born. Youth who participate in the GOAL Foundation’s Young Runners program throughout the year earn a free entry into the Kids K.

Furton shared a story about one of the very first events he led at the YMCA after-school program in West Ogden. They had set up an obstacle course, got the kids amped up, and ran them through it. A rougher-looking family showed up and as the dad watched his son he asked, “Can I do it?” Next thing dad was out there going through all these obstacles, and mom joined in, too! When the Kids K came around, the parents were out there running with their kids. Then the next year the whole family was doing the 5K! As Jeff shared this story with me, the joy on his face was evident. “Dude. It works. This works.”

The mission of Daily Rise is “Promoting Positive Energy.” This isn’t just some snazzy catch phrase. “Promoting Positive Energy” is the written manifestation of Jeff’s very being. Flipping a negative into a positive is who he is because he knows that it changes lives. And changed lives lead to a changed community.

Jeff has been a voice for Ogden and all that it holds. He is a friend to all who cross his path. He’s an advocate for building a strong community where everyone can belong. It’s been 15 years and Jeff – through vision and determination – has become one of the many who actively work to build Ogden. And it all comes back to an event called the Ogden Marathon and the GOAL Foundation.

In fact, he has found himself back on the Board of the GOAL Foundation once again because he missed being more involved and the GOAL Foundation needs energy like his to continue to grow.

He’s still asking, “What does Ogden need?” Well, I think it needs a lot more people like Jeff.

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