One year ago, the Mantua Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7679 held its first 5K run to benefit local veterans’ organizations. Joseph Heitman, the post’s adjutant and race coordinator, said the first race was held with the intent to make it an annual event.
“We wanted to present an event runners would leave and want to come back next year,” he said.
And so, next year has come, and with it, the logistics of hosting an event amid a pandemic. Heitman said the post didn’t want to lose the continuity of events, so they’ll host the Running for Vets 5K rain or shine on Oct. 4.
Post organizers are proceeding with caution given the virus and putting procedures in place to ensure social distancing. Rather than having a mass start, runners will have staggered start times to ensure no more than two or three people at a time are at the starting line.
In accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order, runners are not required to wear a mask if they’re outside exercising and can maintain 6 feet of distance. The race will start directly across from the VFW Hall, and the bulk of the route will go through Chestnut Branch Park. There is also a one-mile walk option for the event.
The post has asked sponsors from last year to return, but they will not be asked for any sort of donation. Heitman said given the fact that many businesses have had to temporarily close or have had their profits take a hit as a result of the pandemic, it didn’t feel right to ask for donations.
Any funds raised by the event will come solely from registration fees: Runners have a $30 registration fee and those doing the walk will pay $25. The race is open to all ages, and awards will be given out in three divisions based on age group.
While an award ceremony was held inside the post last year, Heitman is unsure that can happen this year because of indoor capacity limits. He added that the post is still determining if it will host any sort of post-run event, or if runners will leave upon completion.
Like many other local organizations, Post 7679 has been feeling the effects of the pandemic. Its bar remained closed until Murphy’s executive order allowing for outdoor seating. As a result, members were forced to shut down their pig roast and seafood festival, the post’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Heitman said there’s a common misconception that VFWs are just bars down the street. But the posts are community-oriented organizations that frequently work hand in hand with the township. When an honor guard is needed, the VFW is there, no matter the occasion. The posts also frequently fundraise for other local veterans organizations.
“We try to be a vital part of the community,” Heitman noted.
Since event sponsors are not being asked for money and the sole source of funds comes from registration fees, Heitman encourages those interested in supporting local veterans to run, walk or join the post on Oct. 4.
“It’s important that we keep our doors open,” he added.
Preregistraton will take place up to Oct. 3 at www.linmarksports.com, with walk-up entry on Oct. 4 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. The race will begin at 10 a.m.