For some, it doesn’t take an individual. It takes a village.
Facing a year of COVID-19 bearing down on fundraisers and changes to the way those usual fundraisers are conducted, Elizabeth Essary knew there would need to be something different for the Jingle Bell Run for Hope this year.
“It’s been a blessing in some ways because it’s made us think outside the box,” Essary, manager for the Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare Systems Foundation and facilitator/coordinator for the Jingle Bell Run.
The Jingle Bell Run is in its sixth year of existence.
Each year at the start of December, it has become a tradition for runners and walkers to show up in downtown Morristown to complete a 5K run or walk. Every year, some show up to race while others show up dressed as elves or Santas to celebrate Christmas and to help raise money for cancer patients at the Morristown Regional Cancer Center.
Each year, money raised for the cause has helped either patients or their families.
Sometimes patients need gas cards to drive back and forth from their appointments or help paying their bills while they are out of work. The donations from Jingle Bell Run for Hope helps pay for those expenses.
Essary said the success of the program has been extraordinary.
“We really didn’t think it would take off like it has,” she said.
But, it did.
The event grew to where hundreds would line the downtown streets to participate. Area businesses sponsored teams of people to help out.
Then COVID came.
Covenant Health, the parent organization of Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare Systems, has a philanthropy division and knew the way doing business for charitable causes would change this year.
They held a meeting and started brainstorming.
“All the foundations got together,” Essary said.
So, a new form of Jingle Bell Run for Hope was made. This year, it was held as an all-virtual race with a timed course at Panther Creek State Park. Anyone else who wished to participate could choose to do so at their own pace and at their own place.
The race this year utilized an app called “RaceJoy,” which mapped race participants course through GPS and helped them record how much they ran or walked.
The new technology has also made race coordinators think of how they can institute in years to come as well. Essary said it has made them think that for those who may not be able to make race day they could possibly still participate by using the app and doing the race on their own.
But, she said they have missed the “day of” race events and definitely hope to get back to it.
“We’d still love to get downtown,” she said.
This year, the race raised around $40,000 for cancer patients and families.
They had around 200 participants when they usually have around 400.
But the village still stands.
“It’s not as big as it has been in the past, but the support of the community is still here,” he said.