Safe Passage raises $225,000

By Paul Bagnall

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NORTHAMPTON – Safe Passage, the Northampton-based organization that is committed to ending domestic violence, raised about $225,000 Sunday during its ninth annual Hot Chocolate Run. The money will be used to strengthen and expand the organization’s services.

The turnout for this year’s Hot Chocolate Run maxed out around 5,500, selling out two weeks in advance. Participants received tags around 8 a.m. Sunday and the 2-mile walk started at 9:30 a.m., followed by the 5-kilometer run, which began at 10 a.m.

“It’s a chance to join the community in a good cause,” 28-year-old participant Craig Chamberlain said of the race. “I got energy from the community spirit on a cold morning.”

Safe Passage provided participants – who paid to partake in the run – with 500 gallons of hot chocolate, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The supplies for the hot chocolate were donated by local businesses.

Everyone got to enjoy a mug of hot chocolate at the end of the walk and run and people crowded the event’s scattered booths to show their support.

Sonny Gamble, 24, of Gloucester, came out on top in 5-kilometer race, finishing with a net time of 15:57.5 He was followed by 23-year-old Frank May, of Franklin, who had a net time of 16:11.8 and 22-year-old Orlando Cordero, of Springfield, who clocked in at 16:30.3, according to race results.

Twenty-seven-year-old Katie Chaput, of Mount Hermon, finished first for the women, clocking in with a net time at 17:33.4, according to the results.

The winners received gift cards and new running equipment from the Northampton Running Company and other sponsors.

Twenty-year-old Zoemma Warshafsky, a member of the Triathlon Club at the University of Massachusetts, was one of the many participants in the event.  She said that her club members use fundraising events like the Hot Chocolate Run to stay in shape for the club’s national championships in February.

The event first began with 400 participants in 2003, when the government cut the organization’s funding down from 80 percent to 50 percent.  Former Northampton mayor Clare Higgins was the first to sponsor the run before it exploded into a yearly event for the town.

“The recession didn’t keep costs from rising,” said Safe Passage’s Director of Development Sarah Smith.  “We’re thrilled it shows that people want to support Safe Passage.”

Safe Passage provides free and confidential help to victims of domestic violence, primarily women and children. The organization provides shelter for up to six families and is able to give them legal support.

“It helps a lot because there’s a lot of issues going around,” 19-year-old runner Victoria Slysz said of the organization.

The funds raised by Safe Passage from the run will go towards the organization’s legal programs, the expansion of current programs, and the increase in its services for children.  Safe Passage’s goal is to keep people safe and give them economic independence from their former oppressors.

Paul Bagnall can be reached at [email protected]