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Annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage brings in $615,000

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people begin the 5k fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A pair of women sport tutus for the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A pair of girls decked out in holiday garb begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A pair of women sport stylized reindeer antlers in the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People of all ages, many dressed in holiday garb, begin the 5K fun run during the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run to benefit Safe Passage, Sunday in downtown Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For the Recorder
Monday, December 04, 2017

NORTHAMPTON –– Standing in front of a crowd of thousands, microphone in hand, comedian and Safe Passage event volunteer Jennifer Myszkowski burst into tears. The announcement that $615,000 had been raised to help victims of domestic violence was overwhelming.

Approximately 6,000 people participated in the 14th annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage on Sunday morning. The 5k race that featured homemade hot chocolate from Northampton Brewery started on Crafts Avenue, with runners passing through downtown before looping back to the finish line on Old South Street.

All money raised at the event –– through participant fundraising, registration fees, sponsors and donations –– will directly fund Safe Passage, an organization that provides counseling, shelter and advocacy to victims of domestic violence. This year’s run brought in more money than in any previous year, and surpassed the initial goal of $575,000.

“If that doesn’t make you well up, I don’t know what will,” Myszkowski said of the crowd’s support.

Despite the seriousness of domestic violence, it was a cheerful day. Many ran wearing Santa Claus hats, some ran wearing one-piece animal costumes, and a couple even lapped the city in cowboys-riding-dinosaurs costumes.

The streets were lined with cheering people and live music, including the Expandable Brass Band. A few high-fivers even wore Star Wars outfits for the occasion.

“It’s beautiful. It’s inspiring. It’s love from the region,” Michelle Murphy of Lanesborough said.

Murphy –– there with her self-described “bestie” Dan Simonds of Pittsfield –– was running for the second year in a row. To her and Simonds, it is the message and atmosphere that makes the Hot Chocolate Run memorable.

“It’s an event more than it’s a race,” Simonds said. “It’s sad to know that they (Safe Passage) need that much money for this, but great that we can all come out and support them.”

Murphy participates in ultramarathons, running more than 100 miles. She said a special feature of the Hot Chocolate Run –– and perhaps a reason it is so successful –– is that anyone can do it, even the inexperienced.

“I mean, what does a runner look like? Anyone can be a runner, and they have the Fun Run option for families and dogs,” Murphy said.

The event included a 3K walk and a noncompetitive Fun Run, as well as the officially timed race. The three circuits, which set off at 9, 9:30 and 10:15 a.m., respectively, allowed those with different skill levels and experience levels to participate. Dogs were also allowed during the walk.

In the official race, for female participants, Jennifer Pajer, 22, of Amherst finished third; Jenna Gigliotti, 24, of Northampton finished second; and Apryl Sabadosa, 33, of Westfield finished first.

For men, Dan Smith, 39, of Shelburne Falls finished third; Dennis Roche, 31, of Springfield finished second and Amos Sang, 29, of Chicopee finished first.

Runners were also given “age-graded” rankings that applied handicaps to runners depending on their age and sex. Sang and Smith again placed, but first place in the age-graded rankings was given to Richard Larsen, 66, of Shelburne, whose winning time was 19:14.

Larsen, who took to the Hot Chocolate Run podium for the seventh time, did not care much about accolades or recognition. Instead, he lit up with happiness when learning how much money Safe Passage raised.

“No way. Wow. I did this when I was 62 and I think it was around $200,000,” Larsen said. “It’s so well organized. It’s like the Boston Marathon.”

All participants were not only able to receive free hot chocolate, but a mug designed by cartoonist and “Rhymes with Orange” creator Hilary Price for their supporting donations and fees.

Many formed fundraising groups for the event, including Diane Carleton, of Holyoke, who captained Marshmallows-are-not-optional.

“This is support financially, but it is also support with numbers,” Carleton said.

The group’s seven runners were participating for the fourth year in a row, and raised more than $1,000 by donating themselves and asking friends and family to chip in for the good cause. The group’s Mike Wright of Amherst said the event is both fun and meaningful.

“This is important for the community because the community has a problem with domestic violence,” Wright said. “If you look around and see all of these people, this is our community out in front of us.”

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who spoke at the beginning of the day, said many of the city’s local businesses were donating 5 percent of their profits for the day to Safe Passage.

The contributions of the 17 Northampton businesses, presenting sponsors Baystate Health and Health New England, 28 other sponsors and more than 6,000 people will make a massive difference to domestic violence victims trying to escape an abusive spouse or partner and their children, according to Natasha Yakovlev, president of the Safe Passage board.

Yakovlev said money from the Hot Chocolate Run has gone toward paying legal expenses for battered women to receive justice and has provided counseling for children who have witnessed parental violence.

The money has also gone toward educating the public, and Safe Passage started the Say Something program a few years ago with money from the run.

“It’s a workshop that’s free for the community to learn about violence and to learn to recognize domestic violence and its signs and report it,” Yakovlev said.

Yakovlev continued, “Every year we raise more. It’s amazing but not surprising because we live in the most generous of communities.”