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New Life running with virtual 5K

The pandemic has affected every community event this spring, including the annual New Life 5K Trail Run, an event that raises more than 20 percent of the New Life Furniture Bank’s budget. This Massachusetts charity serves nearly 700 hundred households every year, including individuals, families, single mothers, seniors and veterans, as they come out of homelessness. New Life Furniture Bank of MA collects high-quality gently-used furniture and household essentials that are then made available at no cost to individuals and families in need.

Faced with the challenge of having to cancel its annual 5K Trail Run, New Life sought creative and safe ways to hold their event, which raises funds that are critical to New Life’s ability to serve its clients. “The economic impact of COVID-19 is hitting our clients hard,” said Executive Director of New Life Rich Purnell. “In the coming months, we anticipate a surge in requests as many families will be displaced from their homes.”

After careful thought, the trail run organizing committee announced a new “virtual 5K.” Runners and walkers register the same way they would for a conventional run, at www.newlifefb.org/virtual5K, where they can also create or join a team. Participants create their own 5K route, or use fitness apps like MapMyRun and Strava. Teams or individuals may even choose to row 5K on erg machines, or to bike. Entrants complete their personal 5K anytime between April 13 and May 10, and runners and walkers log their times on Racewire. On May 11, results will be posted and awards will be given in traditional categories, as well as in new, creative categories like most creative course.

“We recognize that this is a totally new way to do something like this, and that is part of the fun," said New Life Furniture Bank co-founder Ron Yates. "The virtual 5K could bring even more people to the event because it is so easy to participate from anywhere, at any time. A team could be made up of family members, high school or college cross country teams looking for fitness and competition, an office group - you name it!” 

The organizers also believe that the event offers an important opportunity for supporters who, especially in these challenging times, seek ways to do something positive and proactive while still being safe. “Folks joining the virtual 5K not only support the New Life mission, they also are a welcome part of a community doing something that matters,” said Yates. “That’s especially important right now. And, running in the virtual 5K is a healthy thing to do. Everyone wins.”

Participants in the New Life Virtual 5K will be encouraged to post photos of their participation with the hashtag #NewLifeStillRunning or send an email to trailrun@newlifefb.org. The registration page reads, in part, “It is our hope that sharing everyone's fun photos and stories will bring joy to our New Life community and inspire other people far and wide to join the cause.” The organizers made it clear that they want more ideas from supporters about how to make the event fun and accessible to all. Ideas are coming in already, including filming clips of virtual bystanders cheering on the runners, and asking kids to create colorful yard signs. 

The Medfield-based not-for-profit organization operates a Donation Center in Walpole, and serves the MetroWest and Greater Boston area. 

To register, visit www.newlifefb.org/virtual5K. Those interested in being a sponsor or making a financial contribution are encouraged to visit www.newlifefb.org.

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