Couple weds before helping Hot Chocolate Run raise $485,000 for Safe Passage

Last modified: Tuesday, December 08, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — The brief wedding ceremony took place on a crisp morning near the finish line of the 12th annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage.

After they exchanged vows Sunday, Shawn Reynolds and Jennifer Boyle ran the 5-kilometer fun run.

The couple considered the 6,000 participants and nearly 1,000 spectators their wedding guests.

“We started first, but we finished last,’’ Reynolds said. “So many people offered us congratulations as they ran past us.’’

It wasn’t exactly a traditional wedding — Reynolds wore a makeshift tuxedo complete with bow tie and top hat, while Boyle had on an ivory fleece and sweat pants.

They weren’t hard to spot during their run through the streets of downtown Northampton.

The couple had a special reason for picking the venue. It is where they met three years ago after being introduced by mutual friend and race official Sarah Smith.

“This event is a major fundraising event and we raised more than 30 percent of our budget here,’’ Smith said. “That money comes in from thousands of donations.’’

The couple’s team, the Haver-Hellions, brought in the third biggest amount of money raised at $15,385. Together, Reynolds and Boyle raised $5,000, which was the pledge they committed to bringing in for the event.

“This race has special meaning for us,’’ Reynolds said.

As soon as Reynolds proposed, the couple knew right away where they wanted to get married.

“This is where we met,’’ Boyle said. “Right after he proposed, we both knew this is where we wanted to get married.’’

Reynolds is from Haverhill, but lived in Northampton for a while. Boyle is a Holyoke native.

“This is something we both love to do,’’ Boyle said. “It is such an important cause.’’

Reynolds was hardly alone in running in non-traditional attire. Many were dressed in Santa Claus suits, as elfs or animals. Even a 12-member band ran complete with instruments.

Jason Stevens of Amherst came dressed to run as a polar bear, the event’s mascot. He has participated since the race’s inception.

“The event’s organizers asked me to run as a polar bear,’’ Stevens said. “I want to help out. It’s been fun to watch this grow over the years. Having mascots cheers people up and is something for the children.’’

Lenore Pripstein Davies was the top fundraiser with a total of $11,235. Last year’s leader, Kathy LeMay, was a close second with $10,586.

Raising Change topped the leaderboard in money raised by teams with $30,832. In total, the event raised $485,000.

“The average gift is $50 or less,’’ Smith said. “This event symbolizes what is true of Safe Passage’s work — that if we all work together, we can eradicate domestic violence. When everyone gets together and chips in what they can, they become part of our work. Safe Passage would not exist without this event.’’

Kirsten Thomson, who moved from San Diego to Amherst nine years ago, won’t miss the event.

“I love this,’’ she said. “This is such a great place to live and I am glad I am here.’’

Thomson raised $500 and proudly wore her red Hot Chocolate stocking hat complete with buttons commemorating the amount she raised.

“I went on Facebook and got my friends to donate,’’ Thomson said. “The sense of community is amazing here.’’

The temperature was in the 30s and Thomson didn’t mind.

“That’s warm — the first year I was here it was 18 degrees,’’ she said. “It was a fun run.’’

In the race, Nicolai Naranjo of Northampton was the men’s overall winner in 15:06. Sean Duncan of Gardner was second in 15:21 and David Johnson of Northampton took third in 15:44.

“I took the lead after the first mile,’’ Naranjo said. “I thought Sean was going to pass me, but he didn’t.’’

Joanna Johnson of Northampton, the assistant cross country coach at Smith College, was the women’s winner in 17:35. Apryl Sabadosa of Westfield secured second in 17:54 and Kelsey Allen of Northampton took third in 18:41.

“This is such a big deal for my team, the Western Mass. Distance Project,’’ Johnson said. “I felt good and this is not just any race — it’s so big for the community and a lot of my runners were out here today.’’

It was a good day for a number of local runners, including Nicholas Hill of Northampton, who won the male 16 division in 16:58.

Other local winners were: male-18, Raymond Surya of Amherst (17:11); male-15, Johnathan Dean of Florence (17:54); male-14, Zac Bail of Belchertown (18:12); male-13, Timothy Jacques of Northampton (19:57); male-12, Nate Jones of Northampton (20:57); female-17, Madi Eline of Southampton (20:42); male-11, Matt McDermott of South Hadley (21:29); female-11, Abigail Touhey of Florence (23:06); male open-9, Davis Wheat of Northampton (23:11); female-12, Peyton Pettiford-Rowa of Florence (24:23); and female-13, Abigail Broyle of South Hadley, (24:23).

Barriers and a strong police presence ensured the race went off smoothly.

“Thousands of people come out every year and literally stop traffic,’’ Smith said. “The experience of running in this event is really meaningful for a lot of people because it’s often their first 5-K.’’

Whether they are an accomplished runner or novice, the festive atmosphere of the event is something everyone seems to enjoy.

‘’The number of times I’ve heard someone say something like running is something I’ve never done in my life before, but if someone can get through an abusive relationship, the least I can do is run 3 miles, Smith said. “People in abusive relationships need to make hard decisions all the time and it’s much harder than training for a run.’’

That is why the Hot Chocolate for Safe Passage Run always has been and always will be a race not for personal glory, but rather for helping a community come together for a good cause.

“People,’’ Smith said, “are inspiring.’’


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