Fitness fundraising takes hold in region
TRI-COUNTY AREA--When it comes to fundraisers, a popular way to raise money for an organization in the area involves an exercise of some sort. Whether it is running, biking or swimming, these events bring hundreds to the area and make thousands of dollars for an area charity or service. It may take some time to get these annual events established, but once they are, they often see growing numbers each year.
One of the more established swimming events in the area is Krossin' Keuka, which began in 2009. The 0.67 mile swim across Keuka Lake off the shore of Keuka College helps raise money for the Keuka Comfort Care Home. KCCH Assistant Maureen Wise says the swim usually makes around $50,000 each year, adding the KCCH depends on the event to be a quarter of their $200,000 operating budget. Wise noted the event averages around 200 people each year, with some coming from as far away as Japan, as well as from across the country.
Wise said she thinks people like the event because the swim can be done with the safety of volunteers in boats as well as with other swimmers. She said since they start at 7 a.m., the event usually concludes by 10 a.m., adding it does not take up the entire day of its participants. Wise said there are a lot of repeat swimmers as well who may be swimming in memory of a loved one who has been through hospice care. The event will be held July 30 this year.
The annual Bike the Bluff event will enter its seventh year June 18, with Sally Prather noting they get around 120 riders each year. She said this number has been level during the past six years, adding they average around $15,000 raised each year. Prather said since it is a volunteer committee, they do not have the time to grow the event as much as they would like. However she added they do get family members who travel in from other states to the event.
Thanksgiving morning will mark the fifth year of the St. Michael Turkey Trot in Penn Yan, with organizer Michelle Creary noting it has grown every year, averaging around 500 racers. She said they raise around $18,000 each year for the school, amounting to more than $50,000 since the beginning. Creary noted it is a good event for even kids and older adults to participate in, making it popular for families the morning of the holiday.
There are two events in Yates who held their inaugural event last year and are looking to grow as the years go on. The Heart of the Finger Lakes 5K was organized by Barb Zebrowski last year and was held out of Millard Park in Dundee. Zebrowski said they had 120 participants last year and are aiming to grow it to 200 this year, with 48 signed up already. The event was able to raise $1,000 for the Dundee Sports Boosters and $1,000 for winter percussion.
Zebrowski said 5Ks are popular because they are good for athletes of different abilities, adding they can run or walk the distance. She said they also do Zumba in the park for those not interested in the 5K. Zebrowski noted she is looking to do some more advertising this year both in and out of the area for her May 7 event.
Taryn Windheim with the Arc of Yates spoke about their Keuka Lake Relay Rally held last year held out of the Keuka Lake State Park. She said there were 100 participants last year who formed relay teams to run the entire distance around Keuka Lake. The event raised $23,000, with Windheim noting she expects the numbers to double for this year's Sept. 25 event. Windheim noted running has become very popular recently, adding some runners may like this event as it is less structured as others, allowing runners to choose their own route. She said she is aiming to cap the event at around 300 to 400 people, as they feed everyone after the relay and do not want it to get so big they cannot fit everybody.
One of the expanding events in Schuyler County is The Arc Grand Prix Run at the Watkins Glen racetrack. Holly Baker, director of community relations for The Arc, said the event will be entering its third year, and has grown from 500 participants year one to 600 last year. The event raises around $10,000 each year, with this year's event being held April 16.
"[Participation is] definitely increasing," Baker said. "Today, we are almost double where we were at with registrations at this time last year. I think that's a good indicator we will see more people this year, especially if we have nice weather."
Baker said there has definitely been an increase in charity exercise events, especially 5Ks. She said she thinks it is because they appeal to a broad audience from kids to adults and because people are looking for a fun, healthy way to support causes in their community.
Another popular event is the Finger Lakes Tour de Cure bicycle ride held at Watkins Glen high school. The event raises money for the American Diabetes Association and includes routes ranging from 10 miles for families to 100 miles for more determined riders. This year's event is scheduled for Aug. 13.
Organizer Kris Alexich said the tour is entering its seventh year, drawing an average of 375 bikers annually. She said they raise an average of $147,725 each year, which totals just under $1 million so far. Alexich noted the event has great momentum in the community, adding it brings people from as far away as Washington state, Dubai and Hawaii. Alexich estimates events like this have become more popular recently since people in the area are continually looking for ways to improve their health, while it also provides a thrill for younger participants.
However, not all exercise events have managed to continue past their first few years. Roger Ort with the Cornell Cooperative Extension said their Rock and Run 5K last year had a low turnout, adding he is not sure if they will host it again this year. The Fierce Falls 5K was also dropped from the annual Montour Falls Harvest Festival. Yet many of those who have stuck around have reported increasing attendance, including some from outside of the area, who often have repeating participants.
The Catharine Valley Half Marathon is scheduled for Aug. 14 this year, with runners starting at the Watkins Glen high school. This popular event is organized by Red Newt Racing.
For those who prefer swimming, the one mile Seneca Swim event at Clute Park is organized by Dawn Thompson and helps raise money for the emergency responders of Schuyler County. The event will be in its fourth year Aug. 20 and has raised an estimated $16,000 across all three years. Thompson said they have around 20 swimmers who participate each year, along with 40 volunteers, including many who paddle along with the swimmers for safety. She said they also conduct a bottle and can drive, adding she is hoping to grow the event when it becomes more established.
Thanksgiving morning will mark the third annual Turkey Trot in Watkins Glen this year, with Kathie Notarfonzo of Exercise Enterprise noting it grew from around 50 people its first year to 150 its second year. Notarfonzo said she is expecting it to grow again this Thanksgiving, adding since there is no fee, her main goal is to fill the food truck with donations from the runners. Notarfonzo said it is an event geared toward everyone, including dogs, kids and everyone in the community who wants to run or walk.
"I was trying to combine giving back to the community with fitness, being active and being outside," Notarfonzo said.