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Cupid’s Chase run through Morristown supports special needs adults

February 10, 2024 | Online Article

“And they’re off!” Runners cue up at the starting line as the countdown hits zero, marking the start of the Cupid’s Chase 5K on Saturday, Feb. 10, in Morristown.

MORRISTOWN – A sea of runners and walkers in red shirts crisscrossed the residential streets of Morristown as an estimated crowd of 200 people turned out for Cupid’s Chase 5K.

Those who turned out to walk, run, and watch showed their support for a fundraiser sponsored by Community Options, a charitable organization whose mission is to help special needs adults live enjoyable and productive lives.

In the moments leading up to the race, animated Deejay Bill Donnelly whipped up crowd enthusiasm with upbeat pop music and some motivational coaching. He mentioned that, as the parent of a special needs child himself, he was acutely aware of the important work being done by Community Options nationwide.

At precisely 10 a.m., race organizers initiated a countdown in the back parking lot of the Community Options facility at 150 Speedwell Avenue that alerted the runners that the race was about to begin. With the assistance of the Morristown Police Department protecting the right of way, runners made their way down a short stretch of Speedwell Avenue before turning west onto Early Street. The route then took them through a series of quiet back streets in Morristown before returning via the same route back to the Community Options starting point.

The atmosphere following the run was festive and celebratory as participants took group selfies and sampled a generous spread of fruits, coffee, juices, and bagels which had been donated by Gary’s Wine and Marketplace.


Saturday’s 5K marked the 11th time runner Greg Novak had completed this event. Novak, a resident of Chatham and an avid runner who recently ran the New York City Marathon and Jersey City Marathon, is a big fan of the Cupid’s Cup 5K.

“I sign up first every year,” he said, while also expressed his admiration for the fundraiser, pointing out that Community Options “supports people who have disabilities, and it helps them find work. And it helps people have heart and hope for themselves, and I think that’s so important.”

Tracking the progress of each entrant, race director Tracy Mendola quickly compiled a list of best-in-class: best time for men and women runners, fastest youth (boy and girl), as well as recognition for senior runners age 55 and over.

Helping Mendola present the awards to the “fastest-in-class,” Frederick Milden shook hands or gave a “high-five” to each winner claiming an award.

The purpose of the Cupid’s Chase 5K is to raise funds for, and elevate the public’s understanding of, people with disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and traumatic brain injury.

Shauna Kennedy, a group home manager for Community Options, gave a real-world example of how the organization is helping people with disabilities. She runs a home helping three women with disabilities in Butler.

“We help them with day-to-day living,” she said, making sure they can safely navigate a complex world.

Bernard Abuto, who is the assistant executive director for Community Options in Morristown, oversees 18 group homes throughout Morris County. He said each group home assists three to four people with varying degrees of disabilities. Abuto’s outreach staff provides additional resources to the group homes, such as job placement, training, trips into the community, and teaching general life skills.

The 2024 Cupid’s Chase occurred not just in Morristown, but in 45 other cities across 11 states, all on the Saturday closest to Valentine’s Day.

The fundraising goal for the Morristown portion of the campaign was set at $25,000.

As of race day, donations from registration fees and sponsorships blew far past that initial goal, reaching $39,500 as of Sunday morning.

Cupid's Chase run through Morristown supports special needs adults - Photo by Andrew Dutton Suzanne Dischinger, left, receives a high five from Frederick Milden as she collects her award for women's "Best Time over 55" trophy at the Cupid's Chase 5K on Saturday, Feb. 10, in Morristown. Race Director Tracy Mendola, behind Milden, looks on as the award is presented. Volunteers, from left, Jack Yukniewicz, Nick Carillo, Luke Nowicki and Ryan Carey, all 11th graders at Chatham High School, line the route to cheer on the runners and keep them headed in the right direction. Larry Vogt, left, and Jared Bilanin, both of Chatham,  make their way along a long stretch of Early Street just before turning onto Speedwell Avenue in Morristown on Saturday, Feb. 10.
Cupid’s Chase run through Morristown supports special needs adults –