Unsung Hero: Jim Schnitzler

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Jim Schnitzler enjoys running for a cause, combining his favorite sport with raising money to help war veterans and youth service organizations.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Jim Schnitzler is a marathon runner living in the Jubilee subdivision at Los Lunas. He enjoys running for a cause to help raise money for veterans, cancer research and children.

The Jubilee Los Lunas resident said he benefits from running with the added satisfaction of helping worthy causes. He has used his sport to raise money for cancer and leukemia research as well as the annual Los Lunas Wounded Warrior Project Run, where he has been the event coordinator for the past two years.

This year, he agreed to be the run coordinator for the inaugural La Vida Felicidad’s “Jog for Joy” fundraiser.

He started running at his doctor’s suggestion back in the early ’70s, in order to combat a rising cholesterol level. The doctor wanted him to run a mile every day in lieu of medicine.

“I went and got my old shoes on and started running,” Schnitzler said. “After one block, I thought I was going to die. I would run a block, then walk a block. Finally, I got up to one mile after about six months and I’ve been running ever since.”

His cholesterol came down in time, but by then, he realized another benefit of running.

“It was a great stress reducer,” he said. “It was a good time to be away from phones and faxes back then.”

Schnitzler ran his first marathon a decade later in Milwaukee. The next year, in 1984, he ran the Duke City Marathon, 26.2 miles, and finished 43rd.

“I ran the first, the very first Duke City Marathon that they ever had,” he said. “And this year, I’m going to run a half marathon in the Duke City Marathon. Last weekend, I ran a full marathon in Milwaukee. It was my 43rd marathon.”

Back in the late ’90s, Schnitzler ran for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.

“I enjoyed seeing this go to a good cause,” Schnitzler said. “And the health benefits the individuals get by participating.”

Many doctors have been inspired to run after giving Schnitzler a physical.

One doctor in California who had never run before, started a running regime after reading Schnitzler’s pulse and other vital signs.

“I enjoy the contributions the running can do toward a good organization,” Schnitzler said. “And you get some personal gratification because you’re maintaining your health at the same time.”

What got him into the Wounded Warrior Project Run was the Jubilee general manager at the time, Susan Halser. She heard about the project on the radio and suggested Jubilee should do something to raise money for the project, he said.

She turned to Schnitzler, knowing he was a runner, and asked if he would organize a run.

Being the gregarious and generous-hearted man he is, he agreed.

As it happens, Adolph Lopez, the village compliance supervisor, was giving a seminar at the Jubilee community center, where Schnitzler met him.

“I said I was thinking about putting on this run, and he said, ‘Hey, come down and see me. I’ll get you some contacts,’ and he lined me up with Kathy Martinez,” Schnitzler said. “And then I started working with all the different village personnel.”

“He’s always out there getting things done, and running each morning,” Lopez said. “He’s as easy going as they come, willing to help anybody.”

The Wounded Warrior Project raises awareness about the post traumatic stress disorder many soldiers come home with, an undetectable injury from the traumatic experiences of war.

The soldiers often feel a sense of isolation and alienation while they are trying to adjust back to civilian life.

“As an example, they come back, they’ve had some traumatic experience and they don’t want to share it,” Schnitzler said. “They don’t want to talk about it. They just feel it’s their problem.”

The Wounded Warrior program offers support groups, counseling, rehabilitative retreats, education programs, information technology training and employment assistance.

“Because the government doesn’t do all that,” Schnitzler said, “they take care of their bodily injuries, but the mental aspect is something else.”

Coordinating the run for the recent, “Jog for Joy” fundraiser at Heritage Park in Los Lunas was a learning curve for him. He didn’t realize all the permitting he would need in order to have a run in a public park and along the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District irrigation ditches, or how he would need to notify the neighbors so they wouldn’t be alarmed and would secure their dogs.

“But it’s all part of the deal,” he said.

Raising money for La Vida Felicidad is another important cause, he said.

“The money goes toward helping kids, families that are in need of, let’s say they have a mental disorder, or whatever the case may be, they need professional assistance,” Schnitzler said. “I just feel like I’d like to help them in any way I can.”

Originally from Madison, Wis., a business venture brought him and his wife, Mary, out to New Mexico in 1983. They lived here for four years, but Schnitzler’s career took him back to Wisconsin.

“But we always liked New Mexico,” he said. “We always came back.”

In 2007, he and his wife were one of the first to buy a home in Jubilee of Los Lunas. They bought it as a summer home, but soon moved to Los Lunas permanently.

“He’s a great guy and is always willing to help the community,” Lopez said. “He’s a community-oriented citizen, and he puts everybody else before himself.”


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.