Cupid’s Chase 5K Morristown Spreads the Love for a Beautiful Cause

By Jillian Risberg

Since 1989, Community Options has encouraged the freedom and self-determination of all people with disabilities by always advocating for them.

And 2023 will mark the 15th anniversary of Cupid’s Chase. It originated in Princeton, and this is the 10th year being held in Morristown — on Saturday, February 11 from 11am to 6pm.

There are also races in Bridgewater, Burlington, Glen Rock, Princeton, Seaside Heights, Spring Lake, Westfield; and occurring simultaneously in 40 additional cities across 10 states.

“We raise the funds to improve our residences and accessibility supports,” says Northern NJ State Director, Tracy Mendola. “Funding for these are not provided by the state, and we want to ensure that those we support have the most up to date technologies, activities, and homes in order for them to live their most meaningful lives in the community.”

The 5K became a yearly tradition for people to stay fit while raising money for a worthwhile cause.

There are currently about 55 runners registered in this year’s race and they expect to have about 300.

According to Mendola, the course runs throughout the town suburbs, beginning and ending at their Daily Plan It location, 150-152 Speedwell Avenue in Morristown.

This location provides rental space for businesses and employment training for individuals with disabilities who provide concierge services for those tenants.

For the State Director, the most rewarding part of this journey is being able to include the local community in raising awareness for individuals with disabilities and their housing and employment needs — and the substantive lives they are living with the support of Community Options staff.

The most challenging part is the unpredictability of February weather.

“Last year we had a beautiful 50-degree day, but negative temperatures and snowstorms make logistics of the race a bit more complicated,” Mendola says. “Thankfully we have a wonderful team and group of volunteers that ensure the race goes off without any issues.”

The State Director has organized the Morristown race for 10 years. Although she has not attended other races, they all often share information regarding what works and what doesn’t.

“It is truly a team effort with the National office and the race directors to ensure each race is successful,” Mendola says this year’s goal is $30,000; currently they have amassed about $5K. “Last year we raised over $26K, so we are hopeful.”

All proceeds from each Cupid’s Chase race go directly to benefit the region that hosts the race. So anything raised for Morristown benefits the residences and services in Morris, Sussex, and Essex Counties.

“In the past we have utilized the funds for updating wheelchair ramps, creating accessible bathrooms and many more improvements for residences,” says the State Director.

Her greatest hope for this year’s Cupid’s Chase is that everyone has a great race, and they exceed their fundraising goal.

According to Mendola, the race has a little catch.

She says on the runner’s registration one is asked if they are “available” or “unavailable,” which translates to the color of the Under Armor shirt they are provided in their competition goody bag.

“This year single runners looking to make a connection at the race will be wearing a white shirt with ‘available’ on the back,” says the State Director. “Those who are ‘unavailable’ will be wearing a red shirt with ‘unavailable’ printed on the back. This makes it easy for Cupid.”

They also have sweatshirts (available in pink and red) for sale with the CC logo and “Morristown” on the back.

With previous races sidelined because of COVID-19 everyone couldn’t be happier to be back.

“Community Options is grateful for all the local participation and support,” Mendola says, adding they hope for a lovely day.

For more information, www.comop.org/cupidschase

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