Women's 5K Classic

By Jennifer LoConte

Originally started in 1993 as a small, local 5K race promoting women’s groups and overall fitness, the Women’s 5K Classic has become a leading non-profit organization and its’ annual 5K event has grown into one of the largest all-women’s races in Pennsylvania today. Last year alone, 5,400 women participated and $240,000 was raised for breast and female cancer awareness. This year’s event will kick off at 9am, Saturday, October 13th at the Lehigh Parkway in Allentown. Celebrating its’ 20th  anniversary, the Women’s 5K Classic will offer a 10k course in addition to the 5K and include memorable events to mark 20 years in existence.

The Women’s 5K Classic mission is to promote fitness among all women; to support women with breast and female cancers and their families by funding programs and research on a local level; and to educate women about cancer awareness, prevention and treatment. Each year, the organizations’ grant allocation committee decides where the dollars raised will be best distributed. They welcome grant proposals from any Lehigh Valley non-profit organization whose mission supports theirs. Original board member Ingrid Gerber says, “We have allocated funds to local hospitals, girls running groups, cancer support groups, colleges, as well as providing funds for women to get mammograms or those who might need a compression garment.”

Over the years, the race has grown exponentially. According to founder and board member Wendy Body, there were 260 finishers that first year, a small handful of sponsors and $2,500 was raised. Body says, “As the years progressed, our fundraising dollars increased dramatically, from $6,100 the second year, to $28,000 a few years later, and by the 7th year, we raised $112,000.” The first year, the Women’s 5K Classic gave their net earnings to help fund a program at a local university. Gerber says, “Our fundraising dollars went towards breast cancer gene research conducted at Lehigh. We were very proud to have made that first $1,000 donation.”

Equally impressive are the number of participants, growing from a few hundred to several thousand. This year, event organizers are capping the number of participants at 5,600 in order to accommodate everyone. Celebrating 20 years, there are a number of events for participants to choose from including: a new 10K course, the original 5K run/walk, a competitive walk and a family fun walk. Gerber says, “We will also celebrate our 20th year by showcasing 20 breast cancer survivors sharing their stories, complete with photos, sent out via email to registrants on a weekly basis. We want to continue the connections made throughout these 20 years and show our appreciation to all women.” As with any fundraising event, it’s essential to have good and worthwhile sponsorships to defray event costs, allowing the organization to raise dollars towards its’ intended purpose.  The Women’s 5K Classic has no shortage of sponsors. Body says, “One of the reasons that businesses approach us with interest is because of our variety and types of sponsorship levels.  With categories such as:  Presenting, Expo, Community, Pink Ribbon, Gold, Silver and Bronze sponsors, individuals as well as large scale businesses can choose a level they feel most comfortable with supporting.” Several Lehigh Valley-based businesses have sponsored the event since the beginning, while others are brand new each year. Pink Ribbon sponsors’ business logos are printed on pink, insulated lunch bags. As Body says, “By packing your own lunch, we are promoting a healthy lifestyle while sponsors enjoy seeing their businesses [via their logos] enter corporate America.”

The Women’s Health Expo and Packet Pick-Up is held the day prior to the event. This year’s expo will be held on Friday, October 12th from 3 to 7 p.m. at St. Luke’s West End (501 Centronia Road, Allentown, PA 18014). In addition to picking up your race packet, there will be a minimum of 50 vendors on hand offering health screenings, nutritional foods, women’s clothing and apparel, skin care, massages and more. There are four stellar raffle prizes offered, including: (grand prize) 2-night spa package at The Lodge at Woodloch; (2nd and 3rd prize) two round-trip airfare tickets to Orlando/Sanford or St. Pete/Clearwater; and (4th prize) a hand-crafted lap quilt by Asbury Quilters. Raffle prize winners will be announced at the race on Saturday.

Registration for all events can be done online and will run until September 28th, 2012. Over the last several years, participants have expressed interest in purchasing a Tribute Sign to honor a survivor. Prices run $50/smaller sign and $100/larger sign. Body says, “Many family members or friends combine their dollars to purchase a sign and then present it to their loved one. It can be emotionally rewarding to both the survivor and loved ones to see her sign displayed prominently along the course.”

Both Gerber and Body are enormously proud to be a part of this organization over the last 20 years. (Gerber, a talented singer, even sings the National Anthem prior to the start of the race). Made up exclusively of female volunteers, board members work together towards one common goal: creating a successful and worthwhile event for the women of their community. They’ve seen it grow from a few hundred women to thousands and this year expect to raise upwards of $2 million since that first race. Body calls it a labor of love and just as their motto says, “Some races are for glory, some are for kicks. This race is for life,” the Women’s 5K Classic will race on from generation to generation.

For additional information and to register for the event visit womens5kclassic.org.

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