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Cupid's Chase chilled walkers, runners Saturday

February 14, 2015 | Valerie Zehl | Press & Sun‑Bulletin Original Article | Article.pdf

Not many people would call 15 degrees a “heat wave,” but that’s the term Amanda Rick used Saturday morning in Otsiningo Park.

And that was even as grainy snow pelted her and about 80 participants in the Cupid’s Chase 5K walk/run, held for the last seven Valentine’s Day weekends in nine states as fundraisers for those served by Community Options. That national non-profit group, dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities, has an office in Binghamton.

At last year’s local event, the temperature didn’t get above zero until 11 a.m., Rick said. So by comparison, the weather for Saturday’s sixth annual Binghamton Cupid’s Chase was almost balmy. More people registered for the event than ultimately participated in person, but five newcomers registered for the 10 a.m. start time.

She anticipates that by the time all the proceeds funnel in, they’ll have beat this year’s goal of $7,000. Funds come from fees paid and money raised by participants, as well as auction items and other donations.

“It’s a great outreach and our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said volunteer April Gaskin of Endicott, who also works at the Binghamton branch of Community Options as a receptionist.

Because of the Valentine’s Day motif, red and white were the main colors du jour, with red shirts indicating the participant is “available” for Cupid’s matchmaking interventions and white shirts indicating otherwise.

Husband and wife Fred and Becki Pickering of Binghamton were two of the “unavailables.”

Becki, a nurse for Lourdes at Home, came because she thought it would be fun, she said.

“And then she talked me into it,” Fred said with a laugh.

Both, like others who walked, jogged or ran the Otsiningo Park circuit, dressed in multiple layers to brave the February chill.

Others, such as Aaron Whitney of Kirkwood, couldn’t resist a having some fun as they put on their running gear. Wearing a red tutu and heart-shaped sunglasses, he said he found the course “a little slippery.”

Nineteen minutes and 21 seconds after Steve Esposito of Binghamton sprinted from the starting line, he ripped through the ribbon at the finish line.

“It was slick,” he said, gasping for breath, “but it was a lot of fun out there.”

Jennifer Kirkland of Johnson City neither walked nor ran the course, but came to support grandson Yasin Ruffin, who handed out water to participants.

“It’s definitely about supporting the cause,” she said. Ruffin has special needs himself and Community Options gives him steady employment in a good work environment, she said.

Even the threat of below-freezing wind chills couldn’t keep her away.

“And it’s cold, but it’s beautiful, right?” she said. “Nice and cold and crisp.”