Giving Back

Greta’s Run in Westfield Sept. 13 will Benefit Young Adults with Special Needs

Participants of all ages and abilities took part in the 2014 Greta's Run. Credits: Jackie Lieberman

WESTFIELD, NJ — Registration is open for the third annual Greta’s Run on Sunday, Sept. 13. More than 1,000 people ran, walked or rolled in the 5K fundraiser for special needs programs at the Westfield Area Y last year. Register to participate, volunteer, sponsor or donate by clicking here.

Among those already registered for 2015 are athletes from The Challenged Athletes Foundation, who use hand cycles to race. 

Greta’s Run is named for Greta Schoenemann, who died in 2002 while she was a freshman at Westfield High School.

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“This is a testament to the way Greta lived her life, and the people she affected along the way,” said Ben Nanna, co-founder of Greta’s Run and assistant director of special programs and events at the Y. “There is something magic about Greta’s Run, and I hope people keep showing up in droves for years to come. I’ll be 90 years old standing on the Greta’s Run stage throwing confetti.”

Money raised will be used to fund the Y’s Dragonfly Program, which offers fitness, recreation and social opportunities for young adults with special needs. A recreational therapist recently joined Y’s the staff to further expand the program and better give participants what they need to thrive, according Nanna.

A committee of three young adults with special needs advises the program.

“I’m not in a wheelchair, nor do I have cerebral palsy or autism, but the committee members do. They tell me what works for them, what they want to do and how they want to be engaged by marketing and program staff,” Nanna said. “I see this as the most imperative function of the Dragonfly Program right now.”

Greta's Run is much more than the 5K alone, Nanna explained. As with the past Greta’s Runs, exactly who will sing the National Anthem will be a surprise, he said. Last year, the Newark Tabernacle Choir delighted participants and spectators.

Jersey Mike’s, The Juice House, Trader Joe’s and Kings Supermarkets will provide food and refreshments at the finish line. Afterward, the Official Greta’s Run After Party will be held at The Office Beer Bar & Grill, with proceeds to benefit Greta’s Run.

“[Co-founder] Jayne [Routolo] and I, our friends and family fly in from all over the world to come to Greta’s Run. Now I hear from participants that their family and friends are doing the same. I always look forward to seeing people who didn't even know Greta show up enthusiastic to participate in the day,” Nanna said. “I love seeing kids I’ve coached on swim team become ‘young philanthropists,’ helping me fundraise, volunteer for the programs and alleviate stigmas associated with people who have special needs. Greta’s Run has become one of the biggest honors to helm. Our community loves it, and our community receives the benefit."

In addition to race-day festivities, Lord & Taylor in Westfield will host Shop for a Cause & Fashion Show for the Lady Blue Devils Soccer Team from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on  Saturday, Sept. 12, with five percent of all sales benefiting Greta’s Run. The event includes live music, a pasta dinner by Casa di Pizza and refreshments.

TAP into Westfied, TAP into Cranford and TAP into Mountainside are proud sponsors of Greta's Run.

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