On Saturday, March 3, 2007, Colgate students, staff and community members of Hamilton and surrounding areas participated in the America’s Greatest Run/Walk at Utica College sponsored by the American Heart Association. While this is an annual event, it is only the second year that Colgate students have participated. Student involvement was organized by the American Heart Association awareness chapter on campus, co-led by first year Sarajane McMahon and junior Annemarie Papandrea as well as junior Leah Gacioch, who is currently abroad.
Participation from Team Colgate totaled 129 people, including students representing several organizations and staff, as well as members of the community who heard about the event through family, friends and co-workers. This was the first year that Team Colgate initiated the Team-subteam model. The subgroups of Team Colgate included Phi Kappa Tau, Kappa Kappa Gamma, University Church, Habitat for Humanity, the Volleyball team and SORT. Recognition was given to the individual who raised the most money, groups that raised the most money and the group which was best represented. Phi Kappa Tau won the prize for having the most members registered; however, SORT was best represented at the actual event. Within the Colgate subgroups, the Volleyball team raised the most money.
Staff members have participated in the run/walk for over twenty years. Administrative Assistant of Advancement Heather Payne has participated for the past seven consecutive years and is the former co-captain of the event. Last year, staff members decided that they wished to increase student involvement in the event. In order to achieve this, they enlisted the help of the COVE, especially Betsy Busche-Cross, its Assistant Director. Before coming to Colgate, Busche-Cross worked a summer at the American Heart Association Office in Utica, which inspired her to promote the run/walk on Colgate’s campus. Planning began last spring, right after the event because of a significant drop in student participation.
“Many people have had someone – either family or friends – who has been afflicted with heart disease in their lifetimes; there is always some sort of connection to this cause,” Payne said. “This is a great opportunity to share some Colgate camaraderie, to get some healthy exercise, to serve our community and to have fun. It’s great to see the community come together for one day.”
The goal of the chapter was primarily to raise awareness, but also to encourage participants to raise money. The chapter set forth the goal of 113 participants with $13,113.13 raised. Last year, Team Colgate had 57 participants and raised $8,000. This year, with an increase in the number of team members, Team Colgate raised over $10,000. Colgate was awarded first place for the highest total pledge in the team category of Colleges and Higher Education, beating six other colleges, including Utica College.
Incentives on Colgate’s behalf included a maroon Team Colgate sweatshirt once participants raised over $60. The American Heart Association had its own incentives, including a sweatshirt, bag and eligibility to win other prizes through drawings. Last year, Team Colgate required that each participant raise a minimum of $30. This year, that requirement was waived. The chapter encouraged increased participation, realizing that the monetary donations would follow. In total, there were nearly 8,000 participants in the entire event, with over $1.1 million raised.
Participants had the option of walking either three or five miles. The event also included three and five-mile runs, in which members of Team Colgate did not participate. Two buses transported participants to Utica College. Three cars drove there and much of the staff provided their own transportation. During the event itself, many people came out to support the participants, with oranges, glasses of water and hot chocolate.
“This is a great event because you get to see the level of community involvement in Utica,” Busche-Cross said. “The sense of community shows you why people want to live there.”
Organization for the event included advertisement, transportation, food for participants, as well as registration setup. The chapter on campus is planning an athletic competition for next fall building on the enthusiasm of last fall’s Gate Guts event.
“The event was very successful and I’m happy with the level of involvement,” Papandrea said. “I hope that people will participate next year.” This walk is the largest heart-walk in the nation and will be held again on March 8, 2008.