Hot Chocolate Run returns in person in Northampton

  • People start the fun run during the 13th annual Hot Chocolate Run to Benefit Safe Passage, in December 2016 in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • The Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 11/8/2021 11:47:57 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The 18th annual Hot Chocolate Run returns Dec. 5 as an in-person event this year, with organizers from Safe Passage anticipating 6,300 participants if the fundraiser sells out like usual.

Safe Passage, a Northampton organization that provides resources to survivors of domestic violence across Hampshire County, aims to raise $750,000 this year. The money goes toward supplying shelter, counseling, informational programs and legal services to survivors in the area who need it.

“The Hot Chocolate Run has been an incredible way for us to connect with our community,” said Sarah Smith, the director of development for Safe Passage.

Smith said the money raised by the Hot Chocolate Run gives Safe Passage “the flexibility to respond to these needs,” in an event that is “very festive … but also meaningful.”

“People are registering every day,” Smith said.

Although more than 2,000 people have already signed up, Smith said she believes some people are hesitant to participate because it is such a large-scale event. To address this concern, Smith said there is an option to participate independently for people who don’t want to gather with other runners, similar to a format that was adopted last year in the COVID-19 pandemic. Safe Passage plans to offer this option for runners in years to come, as it also gives people outside the Pioneer Valley the option to participate.

Additionally, Smith said that Safe Passage organizers this year are hoping to livestream the event, but haven’t yet worked out the details.

“Everybody’s finding these silver linings in the pandemic,” Smith said of this increased accessibility. She also noted that remote access has also made it easier for Safe Passage to connect domestic violence survivors with the care they seek.

For those participating in person, all eligible walkers and runners must be vaccinated and follow mask mandates set forward by the Northampton Health Department. Smith said she hopes the recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for vaccination among 5-to-11-year-olds will make people feel even safer when gathering face to face.

The 5K participants will meet at the intersection of Hampton Avenue and Old South Street in Northampton’s downtown. Walkers will participate in a 3K walk starting at 9 a.m. and runners can choose between either the 5K “fun run” at 9:30 a.m. or the competitive 5K race at 10:15 a.m.

Similar to past years, a commemorative mug will be given to each in-person participant and shipped to each virtual participant. Smith said there must be “tens of thousands of mugs out there in the Pioneer Valley” to remind runners of the event each year.

Smith encouraged people to sign up as soon as possible since the registration fee for adults will increase from $30 to $35 on Nov. 19, with discounts available for students and senior citizens. Sign-ups will continue online at until Nov. 28 or whenever the race sells out.

Everyone who registers automatically gets a fundraising page linked to their name, which Smith encouraged people to utilize since fundraising makes up the bulk of the race’s money.

She said “the run has been such an incredible benefit to our organization because so many people are involved.”

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