5K fundraising season in full swing
5-kilometer races popular in U.Va community, successful fundraisers for charities, community scholarships
This past fall, the Fourth Year 5K had more than 930 registrants, all able to enjoy the nice weather along with guests like Cav Man and Dean of Students Allen Groves. University President Teresa Sullivan recognized the fourth-year winners of the event at the home football game that night. During the event, meanwhile, participants are provided with statistics and information about low-risk drinking through a combination of games and merchandise.
“Peer Health Educators wanted to offer a healthy alternative activity for students on the morning of the last home football game,” Peer Health Education Coordinator Hillary Barry said in an email.
Since its began 22 years ago, the Fourth Year 5K — hosted by the University’s Peer Health Educators — has gained recognition among students and the Charlottesville community alike. The event — whose name is a play on the “fourth-year fifth,” an informal University tradition wherein fourth years drink a fifth of hard liquor at the final home football game of the season — is used to promote alcohol awareness among University students and provide a safe alternative activity.
“Though the race has grown in size over the years, our mission remains the same: to provide a fun, healthy game-day activity for students and community members and spread information about low-risk drinking,” Barry said.
In many ways, the Fourth Year 5K is typical of other road races on Grounds and in the University community, hosted by a diverse set of organizations.
A portion of the proceeds from the Fourth Year 5K, for example, go toward a larger charitable foundation — in this case, the Leslie Baltz Foundation. Baltz was a fourth-year student at the University who passed away in 1997 as a result of a high-risk drinking accident.
“The Foundation provides scholarships to students who wish to study art history abroad, as Leslie had done,” Barry said.
5K races prove a popular fundraiser among University student organizations and the greater Charlottesville area, with about 15 set to be hosted during this spring semester alone.
Zeta Tau Alpha’s 20th annual Run for Life, which took place March 22, is one of the largest 5Ks on Ground. This year, more than 1,000 people ran to support breast cancer awareness and education. The money raised by the 5K is given to the University’s Breast Cancer Center.
“Our money goes directly into the community, and
I think it really ties everything together,” said
third-year College student Jan Walker.
“Our money goes directly back into the community, and I think it really ties everything together,” said third-year College student Jan Walker, the sorority’s director of philanthropy.
This year, the Army ROTC is joining the tradition by hosting their first annual RJ Hess Memorial 5K April 19. Hess, a member of the University’s Army ROTC program, passed away while on duty in Afghanistan April 23, 2013.
“We’re putting on this event to memorialize his passing and to continue the sense of honor and integrity that he inspired,” first-year College student Gene Maslink said.
Many upperclassmen still look fondly on their interactions with Hess during his time with the ROTC program.
“He was a leader in his class,” fourth-year Engineering student Kris Peck said. “He was a great guy.”
Proceeds from the run will support a scholarship fund set up by Hess’s family in his honor. Hess’s father plans to speak at the event, and his mother and sister will also be in attendance.
“We’re trying to help them out,” Peck said. “A lot of fourth-years this year knew RJ Hess, so it hits close to home.”
5Ks remain popular events beyond the University community as well — often on even larger scales. Hospice of the Piedmont, a local non-profit organization, is hosting its 13th annual Run and Remember 5K May 10. The run was started by the Keswick Club and has been contributing proceeds to Hospice of the Piedmont for the past four years. The event raised approximately $34,000 last year, a 309 percent increase from the $11,000 raised in 2012.
“Every single year, we’ve grown in terms of the money that we’ve raised and the people who have participated,” Hospice spokesperson Rachael Palm said.
All proceeds from the event go toward caring for people in the community through Hospice of the Piedmont, which provides hospice care, community-based bereavement services and education about hospice principles.
“We provide all of our services regardless of an individual’s ability to pay,” Palm said. “For example, it would be just as likely that we would serve a homeless man dying of cancer as a state senator, and both of those patients and their families would receive the same level of care, regardless of their financial situation.”
This year, the organization has a fundraising goal of $50,000.
Planning the races
Planning and executing a 5K fundraiser is no small feat. After gaining approval from the University and Charlottesville police, those planning the fundraiser must book the location and route and then file the proper insurance forms. Route proposals must be submitted in order to gain approval, and races held on Sunday are not supposed to follow a route that goes by churches.
Even before deciding on the route and location, choosing a date can be difficult. Because 5Ks are a popular form of fundraising in the Charlottesville area, races typically need to be planned months in advance to find an available date.
“Charlottesville is a community that is really passionate about running and fundraising, so pretty much every weekend there’s going to be a 5K that’s raising money for a different cause,” Palm said. “There are a lot of good causes out there, and there’s a lot of saturation in the market.”
“Charlottesville is a community that is really
passionate about running and fundraising, so
pretty much every weekend there’s going to be
a 5K that’s raising money for a different cause,” Palm said.
With so many races, effectively advertising the event to potential participants can be a challenge as well. Both student organizations and non-profit organizations in Charlottesville utilize social media to keep avid runners and philanthropists aware of upcoming races.
“Trying to connect with the entire U.Va. community is probably our biggest challenge,” Maslink said. “We’ve been trying to connect with all of the U.Va. organizations, and we’re really just trying to raise awareness about it to support this cause.”
Giving back and connecting to the community
After overcoming the challenges involved in planning a 5K race, the University’s philanthropic events boast strong fundraising results.
In the past, the Zeta Run for Life 5K has had overwhelming success, raising more than $19,000 last year. This year, the sorority expects to see donations surpass $25,000.
Despite the 5K being a new event, the Army ROTC hopes to have at least 300 participants in this year’s race. To date, they have raised almost $1,000 through registration and direct donations. Peck said he feels a realistic fundraising goal for this year is around $3,000, but is setting his personal hopes a little higher.
“My individual goal for the race is $4,000 to $5,000, considering that in the early stages we made $1,000,” Peck said.
Students hosting 5K races at the University are rewarded with a strong sense of community, both with fellow students and citizens of Charlottesville.
“Our philanthropy is special, because we have student participants and participants from the community,” Walker said. “Seeing them all come out on race day and having the community participate in our philanthropy is awesome.”
University students are avid participants in 5K philanthropy events, both on Grounds and around Charlottesville. Students will often sign up as individuals or as a team with a CIO, sports team or Greek organization. The University’s club cross country team, for example, uses these 5Ks to stay philanthropically involved on Grounds and in the greater Charlottesville area.
“We’ll have at least a handful — usually more like 10 to 20 runners — involved in the races,” said third-year College student Erin Dougherty, the club cross country meet coordinator. “Any chance we get at competition, having that comradery and that chance to race, we take it.”
“Any chance we get at competition, having that
comradery and that chance to race, we take it,” Dougherty said.
The runners use the events to train for their own meets while supporting other students and their communities. Callum Weinberg, second-year Engineering student and the men’s club cross country team’s workout coordinator, said the Zeta 5K is one of his favorite event.
“I’ve run it the past two years, and both years the club team had fun racing against the fraternity pledges,” Weinberg said. “By the end of the race, it was mostly just us, but we love it. It’s a race that’s competitive, fun. It’s a good course and it’s serious at the same time. I really enjoy doing it.”