These days, everything seems to be virtual, and it’s no different for running races.
Many annual races, which usually double as fundraisers, are going online, including the annual Race for Education, sponsored by St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Harrisburg. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Friday’s event will look a little different.
While the city is used to cheering on St. Stephen’s students and faculty running through Riverfront Park, they will have to do so this year through their screens. Only a small group of faculty will run a course around the school. Students and other staff can join the race from their own homes by running around their neighborhoods, yards or living rooms.
“The Race for Education is one of the happiest days at our school,” said Head of School Ellen Hartman. “It’s a celebration.”
The theme this year is “A Day at the Races.” Each faculty member running will wear a different color to represent every grade.
Typically, students are joined by local sports teams’ mascots and neighbors, which dole out high-fives and applause. The school recognizes that it won’t be the same event as usual, but wanted to keep it for morale.
“In 22 years, they’ve never not had it,” said Bernadette Kaiser, the event chair. “That’s made it such a huge part of who we are.”
St. Stephen’s values equitable education for students with a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Because it is a small private school that gives large amounts of financial aid to students, the race is crucial in raising funds to offset their tuition cost. Each year, students send letters to friends and family in hopes of getting sponsors for the race.
Hartman explained how, each year, their goal is to raise $16,000. This year, she expects funds to be much lower.
“I’m scared,” she said. “Along with small businesses not being able to survive, I’m worried about small private schools.”
Kaiser hopes the school will be able to hold additional fundraisers in the fall to make up for less money coming from the race.
While funds may decrease this year, Kaiser actually thinks the number of spectators may increase. Having the Race for Education streaming on Facebook Live will make watching it more accessible for sponsors who live out of state or couldn’t come before, she explained. If all goes well, St. Stephen’s may consider live streaming the race in the future, as well.
Students, faculty and the community can’t be physically together this year, but they can still be there for each other.
“This is the one thing that really brings everyone together every year,” Kaiser said.
To sponsor a St. Stephen’s student or donate to the Race for Education, visit https://www.sseschool.org/race-for-education.