UMass students participate in annual Hot Chocolate Run

By Shelby Ashline

Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian
(Amanda Creegan/Daily Collegian)

NORTHAMPTON — The annual Hot Chocolate Run, which features a 3K walk and two 5K runs throughout Northampton to benefit Safe Passage, saw record participation Sunday, attracting 6,000 participants.

The event, which has been held since 2004, raised $485,000 for Safe Passage, an organization that provides assistance for those affected by domestic violence. The funds will be used to support safe shelter, legal services and counseling for adults and children who have experienced domestic violence, according to the organization’s website.

Of those who turned out to participate for the cause on a cold, foggy morning, several were students at the University of Massachusetts.

Junior marketing and sports management major Kathryn McGonagle first heard about the Hot Chocolate Run through a community service based club within the Isenberg School of Management and felt inspired to sign up along with two of her friends: junior civil engineering major Molly Dempsey and junior finance and sports management major Ashley Griggs.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity, because … the services (Safe Passage provides) toward people who just need a helping hand is really cool,” McGonagle said. “I feel lucky to be a part of supporting them and helping to spread their message.”

McGonagle and her friends signed up for the 5K Fun Run, one of the three events offered. There is also a 3K walk and a 5K Road Race for those who enjoy being more competitive.

Starting at the intersection of Old South Street and Crafts Ave, the track weaves through the streets of Northampton, which are cordoned off for the morning. Live music was on site and some participants and event officials alike dressed in holiday costumes like penguins and polar bears, making for a very festive scene.

Although McGonagle had never participated in a 5K before, she has enjoyed community service events that she has done in the past, like the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. After learning about Safe Passage’s work, she felt that the Hot Chocolate Run would be a great way for her to give back.

“A lot of times I want to get involved and be helpful and contribute to the betterment of society, but sometimes I don’t know how,” she said. “I feel like this is a really easy way to stay healthy and also help out people who need a hand.”

McGonagle set a fundraising goal for herself of $125, including the mandatory sign-up fee of $25. By reaching out to family, friends and colleagues for donations, she significantly surpassed her goal, raising $386 for Safe Passage, a worthy cause in McGonagle’s eyes.

“I think people sometimes just need a little bit of Christmas magic and Safe Passage is one of those places that can do that and really change people’s lives,” she said. “It’s an incredibly powerful organization and they do incredible things for people who just need a little help.”

For passing her fundraising goal, McGonagle received a red Hot Chocolate Run hat. All participants also receive a mug of hot chocolate at the end of their walk/run, which is where Safe Passage derives the event’s name.

Prizes are given to the top three women, men and grade-aged runners who participate in the 5K Road Race. Gift certificates are also given to the top 25 age-graded performances and to top fundraisers.

McGonagle and her friends expressed content with their individual performances in the 5K Fun Run and with the Hot Chocolate Run.

“It was a really positive environment,” McGonagle said. “You could tell that there was so much support and that everyone was behind this one cause.”

In particular, the trio commented that the event had a very laid-back feel, so they did not at all feel intimidated by the prospect of participating, like they might have in a more competitive 5K.

“Everyone should try this at least once,” said McGonagle’s friend Ashley Griggs of the Hot Chocolate Run.

The event’s growing popularity reflects Griggs’ opinion. It has come a long way from its beginnings in 2004, when it attracted 450 participants who raised $6,000 for Safe Passage.

McGonagle added that she wished she had known about the event in previous years and is hopeful to participate next year as well.

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @shelby_ashline.