Running event pivots to virtual to address youth hunger during COVID-19

FREDERICK, Md. – More than 200 runners and walkers participated in the 5th Annual Frederick Summer Solstice 8K in June, raising $16,614 for the Frederick chapter of Blessings in a Backpack and helping local children living with food insecurity. The Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club shifted to the virtual “run anywhere” format in response to the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the safety of the runners, volunteers, and spectators. 

Runners completed the event on their own in their own neighborhoods and self-reported their results. The event, one of four annual signature races, hosted by the Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club, has raised nearly $100,000 for Blessings in A Backpack in its five-year history.

“Given the circumstances of 2020, the Frederick Summer Solstice 8K made the tough decision to go virtual,” race director, Alex Young, said. “However, we could not have been more amazed by the support of the local running community and sponsors. With their help, this year’s race still raised many funds to directly benefit the children being fed by Blessings in a Backpack.”

After taking care of wrapping up the event and finalizing the donation amount, Young recently joined Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club treasurer, Crystal Tressler, to deliver the donation check to the Blessings in a Backpack office on Market Street.

“On behalf of the children served by Blessings in a Backpack, thank you; thank you to our great friends from the Frederick Steeplechasers. We are very grateful, especially this year, when so many families need help,” said Hermine Bernstein, director of Blessings in a Backpack.

While the format of the race was very different from the party atmosphere of last year’s event at the Walkersville carnival grounds, the race committee was determined to provide a safe and responsible option for runners in the current environment. The Steeplechasers are well aware that community nonprofits need support more than ever this year, and so canceling the race was not a consideration.

The race did not have an official award structure this year, however, Jane Gilhooly, of Adamstown, posted the fastest female finish with a time of 38:30. Chris Burgenson, of Middletown, was the fastest male with a time of 33:02. The 8K distance covers about five miles.

Darcars Toyota of Frederick was the premier sponsor of the event for the third consecutive year.

The 2020 Frederick Summer Solstice 8K was the first of four signature races hosted this year by the Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club. All four races donate their full net proceeds to local causes in Frederick. The other virtual events include challenge format options in addition to standard short-distance races. The virtual Market Street Mile is scheduled through the months of September and October, and the virtual Rick O’Donnell 5.22 Mile Trail Run and Ultra Challenge offers five different events during the month of October.

The Frederick Steeplechasers Running Club has been supporting the local Frederick running community since 1975. See for more information.


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