CRANFORD, NJ - What began as a way to help those in need after Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, has turned into an annual event each Friday following Thanksgiving, dubbed "Track Friday".

Founder, Eric Rubinson, a Cranford resident for the past seven years, began the 501(c)3 as a way to channel his desire to help those in need after Hurricane Sandy hit so many near his hometown of Middletown, New Jersey. Rubinson decided that if he could find an easy way for people to get involved and give back that he could create an event with a lot of reach.

He chose the day after Thanksgiving to tie into the biggest day of materialistic consumption so that people could rather focus on helping vs. buying. He adds, "Rather than throwing fuel on the fire of the media campaigns surrounding the selling craziness and the events that surround Black Friday, oftentimes, with violent outcomes and massive crowds, I wanted to try and mute that and create a day, Track Friday, where people could meet up and give back."

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Rubinson chose to hold his first event three years ago at his alma mater, Middletown North High School, to try and rally the most amount of support. An avid runner, who has completed 55 marathons in all 50 states, decided to raise money for the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County the first year and invited people to watch him run a track marathon for their donations. That first year he raised $22,000 and had over 300 unique donors visit the site. And while nearly half of the total dollars raised went to the local Food Bank near his hometown, the rest of the funds went to charities that donors selected on their own. 

The Track Friday concept was based on the idea that Rubinson wanted to give people a very turnkey way to get involved, since many people are relunctant about joining a team for a cause they may not feel personally connected to. "The idea is to get everyone rallying around giving and people involved, with the confidence that their money is going toward a good cause, a cause that they select," Rubinson added.

And while Track Friday meet-up events are located at physical tracks around the country, organized by local individuals and groups independently, from as far away as San Diego, CA to as close as Kenilworth, NJ, the idea is that it creates a social and virtual culture of giving, along with the idea of meeting up physically when possible. 

The way the process works is that anyone interested in joining the Track Friday initiative can visit the website and sign up as a participant. They will be asked to chose an organization to donate to; there is a database of all 501(c)3 companies to ensure legitamacy, then from there the participant can select their charity, their donation amount and begin fundraising. The idea is that the participant would either individually or as a meetup, gather at a local track to share the experience of giving together, but the actual track meetup is not required nor managed in any way and there is no fee to participate. Track Friday nor Rubinson collect any funds, a third party fundraising site serves as the payment engine.

While Rubinson is busy as a full-time employee for a pharma company, father and husband, his only hope is for people to find a way to get involved. "Our charity is designed to get people actively involved easily, I suggest finding a local chapter of a cause you believe in and use that as your platform to get donations. And as for how you actually execute the Track Friday in your area, you can create a meet up or just come and go as you please, walk, run, collborate with others, participate solo, it's a personal choice, the barrier to entry for giving money should be easy, that's our goal with Track Friday."

As the next Track Friday draws near Rubinson is encouraged by the increase in involvement year over year and had 56 different charities receiving funds in 2014. Those interested in particpating can visit the website for more information and also check out an interview with Rubinson in the upcoming December issue of Runner's World magazine.