To call Wilmington University’s inaugural Spirit Stride Virtual 5K a success would be accurate yet understated. The April event raised $47,829 for student scholarships, thanks to the generosity of 576 participants. Fabulous prizes ranged from an Apple watch to Amazon gift cards. But, most important, many student beneficiaries, most of whom were affected severely by the COVID-19 pandemic, can now pursue their academic goals.
Being virtual, enthusiasts joined in from various locations. Those who could not physically take part wanted in, too, and supported the 5K financially. Others who had no affiliations with WilmU donned their sneakers. Besides the fitness benefits, most saw the event as a humanitarian effort.
“This was such an awesome opportunity for us to come together and show how much we care for students,” says WilmU Dover Site Manager Sherry Stephens. For Alyssa Bradley, Year-Up’s program manager, supporting the 5K was timely, she says, and “we need to continue to come together as a community to help others receive a hand up.”
The top participating teams were GirlTrek Delaware Sole Sisters, Dover Sole Survivors, Run with the QTS, and Step Up with Year Up. A special team was created in memory of alumnus Ken Fontal, a four-time All-CACC performer and two-time all-regional runner. Fontal, who was just 24, succumbed to his injuries after an accident. The team raised $1,200 in his honor, and the funds will go toward the Ken Fontal Memorial Scholarship Fund at Wilmington University.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, participants saw the Spirit Stride Virtual 5K as a way to support WilmU students at an especially challenging time. Alums who saw substantial value in their educations paid it forward. “WilmU is a great school,” says alumnus Warren King. “Its commitment to diversity is one of the aspects that sets it apart from other universities.”
“This event brought the entire WilmU community together since the pandemic required everyone to work virtually,” says Dr. Stefanie Whitby, director of Athletics and assistant vice president of Alumni Relations and Development. “Although we couldn’t see one another or be together to see the prizes awarded, we were connected every day by checking the teams on the event page and tracking the generous donations. We were cheering each other from afar, all of us filled with joy and spirit.”
The Spirit Stride Virtual 5K was co-hosted by the Wilmington University Alumni Relations and Development departments. Special thanks to Platinum sponsors NFP and CBM/IFS Insurance, and Gold Level sponsor JC Contractors.