Free, discounted events offered to 5k Foam Fest registrants

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jul 21, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The 5k Foam Fest has been canceled with no warning, and the organization said it's not giving refunds.

Participants run, slip and slide through an obstacle course with foam spraying everywhere.

Nate Apel said he heard about the race through one of his Facebook friends.

"She wasn't really into exercising or doing races like this much, but because of the cause, she was excited about it [and] wanted people to do it with her. So I agreed to do it with her," Apel explained.

Apel signed up in early June for the Grand Rapids event. He was ready to run for a worthy cause. Special Olympics of Michigan said participants raised $30,000 last year.

Apel said, "I paid about $75" for the 2014 race.

"Got all set up for it and started training."

But by July 17, his training and his hard-earned cash literally went down the drain. "I got an email saying it was canceled."

Apel received the same email that was sent to thousands of other Foam Fest runners in several cities across the country. The Foam Fest homepage now has a statement with an apology but says there would be no refunds.

The last paragraph reads:

"While the 5k foam fest no longer has staff or funds and will not be able to respond to individual emails or phone calls, we will provide additional email updates as information becomes available. As we face bankruptcy we ask for your forgiveness and patience."

Phil Catlett, president of the Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan said there are questions about the cancellation. "We're not even sure in this case if they're filing bankruptcy," Catlett said. "They say they are but we don't even know who the folks are behind this yet."

Catlett said his BBB office has received a few messages from people affected by the cancellation. He said his office will be in contact with the BBB in Utah, where the Foam Fest organization is based, in order to get more information.

In the meantime, Catlett said registrants who used a credit card to sign up have the best chance of getting a refund from their bank.

"If you're ever going to register for anything online, do it with a credit card," he said.

"[The credit card] gives you, maybe, an avenue to get reimbursed. Because I'm guessing with what I'm reading, it's the only way anybody's going to get reimbursed."

Apel is more concerned about charities that stood to benefit.

"The financial aspect is kind of frustrating, but I guess in my mind, it's even a bigger hit for the charity that's involved," Apel said.

He added, "Now they don't get anything. It's like they're just out."

The FOX 17 Problem Solvers did find a solution for anyone who can't get a refund through their credit card company. Red Frog Events, a company that puts on other races in Michigan, such as the Warrior Dash, is offering free entry to any of their events this year and next year. To contact Red Frog, call 312-262-6099 or visit their website. To be eligible for free entry, you need to prove you paid for the Foam Fest.

We also heard from the Eat Dirt Mud Run, which is on August 23 in Grand Rapids. They will give all Foam Fest racers 30 percent off to that event, but that offer ends this weekend.  Visit their website for contact information.

Also, FOX 17's sister station in Utah is going to knock on the Foam Fest organization's door in Utah to try to get some answers.