WESTFIELD, NJ — Crowds of sweaty runners are out of the question during the pandemic but with virtual participation an annual 5K is well on its way to success.

The annual run held in memory of Westfield High School freshman Greta Schoenemann, who died tragically in 2002, is virtual this year and partnering with Imagine, a Center for Coping With Loss, which provides free, year-round grief support for children.

Participants have been given the option establish fundraising pages and run individually leading up to this Sunday. Kaitlin Casey, development manager for Imagine, on Thursday answered questions on progress of the run, fundraising goals and the event’s mission.

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Q. How has signup for the virtual run been vs. where you'd expect to be tracking in a “normal” year? 

When we went virtual, we didn’t know quite what to expect, but we are so proud to say that more than 450 people are participating so far. Many registrations come in last minute, so this number is growing as we speak. While we may expect to see more if the event were held in person, going virtual has had nice benefits as well. We have registrants participating from different states and from Western Australia, New Zealand, England and Germany. They’ve shared that they were so glad to be able to participate in a year when they normally wouldn’t have been able to be part of the event due to location limitations.

MORE: Greta’s Run in Westfield Goes Virtual Amid Coronavirus. How You Can Participate.

Q. What do you hope will be the final amount of money raised?

Our goal was $100,000, and we are extremely close to reaching that number. Despite the pandemic, our community pulled together around this tradition and made this a record-breaking year for Greta’s Run in terms of the amount it raised. These funds are needed now more than ever as we have been getting more and more calls from families in need due to losses related to COVID-19 and of course calls for support continue to come in weekly from families who have had someone die unrelated to COVID-19. In addition to helping new and existing Imagine families, we are also providing support for first responders and essential workers through a free virtual weekly support group. There is an incredible need for grief support services in this moment, and we are so thankful to those donating to support our mission.

Q. How do you feel the ongoing mission of Greta's Run aligns with how you are doing the run virtually this year?

Doing this race virtually has allowed us to more broadly honor Greta’s memory while raising awareness about the need for grief support and to open up a broader conversation on loss and death and dying. We live in a grief avoiding and death denying society which isn’t good for any of us. Greta’s Run allows us to shine a much bigger spotlight on the serious issue of childhood bereavement which is a serious public health issue that has long been overlooked. A big part of our mission is to normalize grief in our communities and create communities well-equipped to support grieving children. That’s what Greta’s Run and Imagine have both done so well for so many years. Looking back, the Schoenemann family wished Imagine existed when Greta died, and by continuing this 5K, we are ensuring grieving families have that place to turn to.

How You Can Participate

  • SET UP A Greta’s Run for Imagine page. Donate and encourage your friends to give. Then join the virtual event in one or more of the following ways: 
  • RUN, WALK, ROLL: participate individually anytime, anywhere, in your Greta’s Run shirt the week leading up to Sunday, May 17.
  • SHARE YOUR STORY: post about the person/ people you’re participating in memory of to social media, using #GretasRun.
  • COLOR A DRAGONFLY: then place it in your window and post a photo on social media to show your support.

TAPinto Westfield is a media sponsor of Greta's Run.

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