Though the race is traditionally held on the second Saturday in April, race director and Council President Orlando Mercado decided to hold the race in June this year. He had considered postponing until fall, but after COVID vaccinations got underway and cases started declining, he made the recommendation to move the race to the 12th.
An avid runner, Mercado found it difficult to find races that hadn’t been pushed back to the fall. He hoped that having the township race in June might encourage more participation.
“The fall race calendar had become full, and I didn’t want our race to compete with other larger races in the area,” Mercado explained. “This year, the pre- and post-race activities will take place outside, rather than within the senior center. This will allow for runners and guests to gather in a larger, socially distanced area.”
The 5K race is one of many events the scholarship committee typically hosts throughout the year. Richard Hollinshead, its assistant treasurer, noted that the committee serves two purposes: One is to bring the community together, by fostering the pride and spirit for Gloucester Township through events, and the second is to provide scholarships for students in the municipality.
“As you may or may not know, the scholarships that kids get often go to the really, really top kids in the class,” Hollinshead said. “And because we’re trying to involve the whole community, we’ve set criteria for our scholarship that are really looking for an inclusive program where lots and lots of kids would qualify because lots of kids who are not in the top 5 percent of the class are still going to go to college and need money.”
Because the committee receives so many qualified applicants, scholarship recipients are chosen by a lottery system in April, with the deadline to apply usually in February. Each year, the committee typically gives out about $45,000 to $50,000 in the form of $1,000 scholarships.
The committee works one year in advance, so while it is able to hold the run again this year, the funds raised will go toward next year’s scholarships. Because the committee was unable last year to hold its biggest events, such as Gloucester Township Day and the 5K, funds for scholarships were more limited this year.
“We were on hold for the past 16 months,” Hollinshead shared. “It’s really hurt us, and unfortunately, we had no other source of revenue, so we were hoping that with this fun run coming up in June, that we’ll be able to sort of get going again at fundraising so we can go back to providing better money.”
Even without in person events, the committee held a virtual paint and sip event and partnered with some local restaurants. In April, it awarded $500 scholarships to 20 students.
For interested racers, the schedule and registration for the 5k can be found at https://runsignup.com/Race/NJ/Blackwood/GloucesterTWPScholarshipRun?rsus=100-200-40beee9b-6c06-4804-a273-ec6ee5743c2d. For questions or information on sponsorships, contact Mercado at email@example.com.
For more information about the Gloucester Township Scholarship Committee and upcoming events, visit https://www.gtdsc.org/.