Racing returning to Garden State Park to benefit Cherry Hill Education Foundation

On April 10, racing will return to Garden State Park.

It won’t be thoroughbreds doing the racing, however. It will be dozens of runners and walkers taking part in the first-ever Garden State Park 5K Run and One Mile Fun Walk. The event will take place throughout the property on the morning of April 10 beginning at 8 a.m.

This is a new fundraiser for the Cherry Hill Education Foundation, with all of the proceeds going toward the organization.

A pair of Cherry Hill community members and 2016 Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars participants is teaming up with Garden State Park for this inaugural event. Anthony Pascale, manager at the Cherry Hill Health and Racquet Club, and Melissa Benenfeld-Merovitz, a local chiropractor, are partners in the upcoming dancing competition.

Pascale has experience as a chair for Relay for Life in the past and wanted to do an event to benefit the Cherry Hill Education Foundation. He had an idea for a race and thought Garden State Park would be a great location. Pascale met with Janice Birenbaum, asset manager for Garden State Park.

“It sounded like a great idea to her,” Pascale said. “She met with Eleanor Stofman and Mel Zimmerman (from Cherry Hill Education Foundation) and they liked the idea.

As the parties began discussing the park run, Pascale was named as Benenfeld-Merovitz’s partner for Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars. Benenfeld-Merovitz was excited to get involved with the park run after hearing about the idea. The pair was able to connect the event with the fundraising they were doing for Dancing with the Cherry Hill Stars.

“I love to run, so I got involved,” she said.

Planning for the run has been ongoing since January. Pascale and Benenfeld-Merovitz have gone to all of the retailers in Garden State Park to get them on board with sponsoring the race. Pascale said there are a number of costs with staging a 5K. He was hoping to have sponsors pay for all of the expenditures so all of the proceeds from runners and walkers could go toward CHEF.

“(The sponsors) are paying for all of the logistics of the race,” Pascale said. “The signage, the posters, the t-shirts. We have to hire the police to escort the runners through the course.”

Many of the businesses were excited to get involved and are donating more than just money. Donated prizes will be awarded to the fastest male and female adult and child under 18. In addition, all participants will be entered in a drawing to win a grill from Home Depot.
“Every participant is going to get a goodie bag,” Pascale added. “It will have discounts from the sponsors for all of the race participants as well as a race t-shirt.”

With sponsors locked up, Pascale and Benenfeld-Merovitz are now looking to get runners and walkers signed up for the event. Benenfeld-Merovitz’ son set up a website, www.gardenstateparkrace.org, where participants can sign up for the event or donate. In addition, the pair is putting up signs in places everywhere from the stores at Garden State Park to all of the township’s schools.

“We started with posters in the stores,” Pascale said. “We got a lot of retailers in Garden State Park to participate.”

“I contacted the coaches for track and cross country at Cherry Hill East,” Benenfeld-Merovitz added. “I talked to teachers and students. We’re going to market it in all of the schools and we’re going to put up signs everywhere.”

Pascale doesn’t want this run to be just a one-time deal. He believes this could become a large-scale annual event in the township.

“This is a way that Melissa and I and Janice can stay in touch with each other and build something valuable,” he said. “When the three of us met for the first time, we realized this was something we could make an annual event.”

“There’s a lot to be gained,” Pascale added. “It’s going to be a fun event.”

Registration is now open for the Garden State Park Run and Walk. The cost to participate is $25 in advance or $30 the day of the event. The 5K run will begin at 8 a.m., with the one-mile walk following at 8:30 a.m. To register or for more information, visit www.gardenstateparkrace.org.

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