SUMMIT, NJ - In 1978, the Summit Junior Fortnightly Club (SJFC) was looking for a new event to benefit local children’s charities. The Summit-based women's club, formed in 1932 and dedicated to volunteerism and community service, subsequently organized a 'Tot Trot', a mini-carnival followed by a fun run for kids ages 2-8 held at Memorial Field. 

To be successful, the event also needed the support of local businesses as sponsors, so the SJFC approached Lois Schneider, the philanthropically-minded owner of the prominent realty business that bore -- and, to this day, bears -- her name. Lois Schneider Realtor became the lead sponsor that first year, and has continued in that capacity every successive year after, including after Schneider's passing in 2012 at which time her daughter, Karen, assumed leadership of the agency.  

Now a Summit tradition, this year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Annual 'Tot Trot',  an event with the fitting motto of “Kids Running For Kids.” Each year, the SJFC selects a local children’s charity as the event beneficiary, with previous 'Tot Trots' providing funds to myriads causes and agencies, including TryCAN in Summit, the Valerie Fund, CASA of Union County, the Eating Disorders Center at Atlantic Health System based at Overlook Hospital, Good Grief, Reeves-Reed Arboretum, and Bryan’s Dream, just to name a few.  

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The 2018 'Tot Trot' beneficiary is the Children's Dyslexia Centers of NJ, Scotch Plains Campus, an organization whose mission is to provide high quality, multi-sensory, reading and written language tutorial services for children with dyslexia; to increase public awareness and education about dyslexia; and to increase scientific research into the causes and treatment of dyslexia to improve future care.

Services are provided, free of charge, to all children, regardless of economic status, race, or religion, and there is a waiting list to get into the program. Jennifer Richter, SJFC Co-President, said “We know so many children struggle with learning issues that delay reading, and frequently the services they need are a heavy burden for their parents.  That’s why we are really excited to support this organization. We hope the proceeds will help many more children to get the skills they need to succeed in school.”

Patricia Thoms has fond memories of watching her little girl, Kara, run in the races while she volunteered at the event as an SJFC member. Kara, now a Sales Associate at Lois Schneider Realtor and a member of the SJFC, now volunteers at the event with her son, Bauer, who also ran the races until he turned ten. Patricia Thorns notes “Both Kara and I appreciate working for a good cause and to support a local tradition. And it’s great for Bauer to volunteer and experience the good feeling you get when you help others who are less fortunate – especially kids.”

Event organizers agree it is the children that make the event so much fun. Rosie Zbeda, SJFC Co-President and Sales Associate at Lois Schneider, said “When you look back at the photos taken over the years, the one thing that really stands out is the joy and excitement on the children's faces. They are truly precious moments to watch, particularly as the younger children muddle their little legs from start to finish into a loved one’s arms.”

This year’s event will be held on June 3, again at Memorial Field. The carnival activities for kids -- which include Inflatables, Trackless Train, Petting Zoo, Crafts and Games -- will run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., followed by races for kids aged 2-10 from 1 - 2 p.m.

Runner’s registrations can be purchased in advance at sjfclub.org/ for $17 ahead of the event, and for $20 at the door. All pre-registered runners receive a 'goody bag' that includes a T-shirt, water and other items, and all runners receive a medal commemorating their participation after their race.

Community minded individuals and kids above the age of eight can volunteer to help out at the event by contacting sjfcmail@gmail.com.

Editor's Note: TAPinto Summit is a sponsor of the 2018 'Tot Trot'.