Hot Chocolate Run raises record $628,000 for Safe Passage

  • Rachel Gordon of Greenfield, center, runs up Crafts Avenue in Northampton, Sunday, at the start of the 5K fun run during the annual Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. SARAH CROSBY/FOR THE GAZETTE

  • Dave Rothstein of Florence, center, sips hot chocolate Dec. 2, 2018 during the annual Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton, which serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Participants in the 5K fun run portion of the annual Hot Chocolate Run move toward the finish line Dec. 2, 2018 on Old South Street in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Amy Seldin of Florence, center, and other participants in the 5K race portion of Sunday’s annual Hot Chocolate Run, move through the finish line on Old South Street in Northampton. The event is a fundraiser for Safe Passage, which works to prevent domestic violence. SARAH CROSBY/FOR THE GAZETTE

  • Participants in the 5K fun run portion of the annual Hot Chocolate Run adjust their costumes while moving toward the finish line Sunday on Old South Street in Northampton. SARAH CROSBY

  • Ryder Morin Dymon, 6, of Easthampton, warms up with a mug of hot chocolate Dec. 2, 2018 after competing with his family in the 5K race during the annual Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass senior Michelle Pajer, center, talks with friends right off the finish line Dec. 2, 2018 after competing in the 5K race during the annual Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Participants in the 5K fun run portion of the annual Hot Chocolate Run move off the start line on Crafts Ave Dec. 2, 2018 in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Participants in the 5K fun run portion of the annual Hot Chocolate Run move toward the finish line Dec. 2, 2018 on Old South Street in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Participants in the 5K fun run portion of the annual Hot Chocolate Run move toward the finish line Dec. 2, 2018 on Old South Street in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Laura Oliver of Hatfield, center, talks with friends Dec. 2, 2018 after competing in the 5K race during the annual Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

  • Participants in the 5K fun run portion of the annual Hot Chocolate Run move off the start line on Crafts Ave Dec. 2, 2018 in Northampton. The event serves as a fundraiser for Safe Passage. —SARAH CROSBY

For the Gazette
Published: 12/2/2018 11:19:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As he crossed the finish line of the 15th annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage, 32-year-old Dennis Roche from Springfield took a moment to catch his breath. Finishing first in a 5K road race with a time of 15:12 on a rainy Sunday morning is a commendable feat.

But Roche was only one of approximately 6,300 other participants who took part in either the 5K road race, the 5K “fun run” or the 2K walk to help raise money for Safe Passage, a Northampton-based organization providing services to survivors of domestic violence.

This year, Safe Passage raised $628,000, beating out last year’s record of $611,000.

“From a fundraising point of view, there is not one thing at Safe Passage that we do that isn’t touched, impacted and supported by this event,” said Marianne Winters, executive director of Safe Passage. “It also means that the community is saying no to domestic violence and yes to being involved. It’s probably the most remarkable fundraising event that I’m aware of for domestic and sexual violence.”

The first annual Hot Chocolate Run in 2004 saw around 200 participants in total, and the race has continued to grow in popularity every year, said Lynne Marie Wanamaker, the associate executive director of Safe Passage.

“We’ve seen exponential growth,” Wanamaker said. “This community’s support for this event is unparalleled. Events like this just don’t happen. This is remarkable, this is an astonishing event ... It speaks to how deep the support is in this community and how many people are involved in supporting this.”

About a year ago, Safe Passage moved into a new building at 76 Carlon Drive, which the organization purchased for $1.235 million. Money raised from this event will go to expanding services at the organization, Wanamaker said.

“This year is going to see the same kind of growth as we fill that building with services and new staff members, and that’s what this investment is from this event,” Wanamaker said. “We’re expanding our services to marginalized populations, we’re expanding our services to the LGBTQ community, Latinx immigrants and survivors. We’re expanding our outreach capacity and our counseling capacity.”

In downtown Northampton Sunday, runners were drinking hot chocolate after their races, wearing holiday-themed costumes and smiling through their teeth — all while soaking wet.

Spectators lined the road near the race’s start on Crafts Avenue and loudly cheered on runners as they turned the final loop on Old South Street. To keep warm, most were dancing from music blasting from speakers all around the registration area.

Peter Elsea of Northampton and Dave Rothstein of Florence come to the Hot Chocolate Run every year dressed up as a polar bear and a penguin, respectively. They claim to be the unofficial “mascots,” of the event, since the hot chocolate mugs given out to runners always feature cartoon versions of the two winter animals.

“Now, so many people come in costume that it’s just a big costume event. There are, like, a thousand polar bears out here. We love it though ... we just think it’s fun to see all of the other costumes,” Elsea said.

“We like to say that we’re polar opposites coming together for the right reasons,” Rothstein added with a laugh.

For men, after Roche’s 15:12 5K win, Benjamin Parzich, 23, of Agawam came in second while Mark Rabasco, 24, of Greenfield came in third.

Jenna Gigliotti, 25, of Amherst came in first in the women’s group with a time of 17:45, while Apryl Sabadosa, 34, of Westfield took second place and Cortney Berling, 29, of Amherst came in third.

“It was a good day, it was cold out but I’m just happy to get out and race and get it over with, honestly,” Roche said. “I pushed hard at the beginning of the race and then just tried keeping my body rhythm going. Those hills at the second half of the course were kinda hard. I slowed down a bit, but all in all, I’m happy.”

In addition to donations from businesses, runners help raise money not only through their registration fee, but also from friends and family members who “sponsor” them with a monetary gift. Laura Oliver of Hatfield said that helping to raise money was the primary reason why she has come back for five straight years.

“I think any time you get a lot of people together and since it’s for a good cause there is a lot of good energy going around, and you can feel it radiating off of everyone,” Oliver said.

Sean Barry of Hadley participated in the walk this year dressed as one of Santa’s elves, but said his wife always participates in the 5K.

“I want to show support for people suffering from domestic violence and to bring our family and friends to help show some community support,” Barry said.

Community support was definitely felt, Wanamaker remarked. Seeing so many people come together to help make a difference was humbling, she said.

“I identify as a survivor and what this says to me, since we know the experience of surviving interpersonal violence to be very isolating, and this is the opposite of isolation,” Wanamaker said. “This is love and connection. And that’s what we know to be most healing.”




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