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Fitness for a Cause

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— October 4, 2019

Fitness for a Cause

By Jodi Helmer
  • The Marcum Workplace Challenge has become an iconic event that helps fund Long Island charities.
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When the horn blew at the start of the Marcum Workplace Challenge, 40 employees from NaturesPlus were among the sea of walkers and runners navigating the 3.5-mile course at Jones Beach State Park.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring as many of our people together to go out and do something fun together,” says Anthony Napolitano, director of sales administration. “We had a great turnout for our first time.”

The Greater Long Island Running Club has been coordinating the annual event since it started in 1986. Marcum, an independent public accounting and advisory firm, has been the title sponsor for 13 years.

Registration is open to corporate teams from businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies on Long Island (families and friends can join, too). The event is billed as the largest corporate run/walk for charity—and the biggest office picnic—in the region.

NaturesPlus took part in the 2019 Marcum Workplace Challenge, which drew 8,500 participants from 200 countries. Click To Tweet

NaturesPlus is one of the hundreds of local companies with employees who are eager to take part in the event, which started with less than 1,000 walkers and runners from a few dozen local companies in its inaugural year. It has grown to 8,500 participants from 200 companies.

Mindy Davidson, event director for the running club, calls the Marcum “the largest running event on Long Island that has always been looked at as a ‘save the date’ event for most of the major local companies.”

Helping the Community

To date, the Marcum Workplace Challenge has raised more than $900,000 for local charities; each event raises an average of $100,000 annually. Funds are divided among charities; 2019 beneficiaries include the Long Island Children’s Museum, Children’s Medical Fund of New York, Long Island Cares—the Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“The funds we raise are important to help these organizations continue to do all of the great work they do around Long Island,” says Davidson. “The charities set up booths at the event so participants can learn more about their work.”

That work is varied.

Each year, the Marcum Workplace Challenge helps three Long Island charities fulfill their missions. Click To Tweet

The Long Island Children’s Museum provides hands-on educational programs, interactive exhibits and live performances in its 40,000-square foot museum, where children are encouraged to see, touch and explore.

The Children’s Medical Fund of New York helps to advance medical care and to improve the lives of seriously ill children and their families.

Long Island Cares supports a network of soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters to help address food insecurity in the area. (NaturesPlus hosts its own annual food drive to support the organization.)

At the Nassau County SPCA, the goal is to protect animals from abuse and neglect; it’s the only animal welfare agency operating in Nassau County.

Charting a Course for Success

The Company Culture Committee at NaturesPlus learned about the event through employees.

“A number of our employees had participated in past events with other companies or through a spouse or friend,” explains Napolitano. “When we learned about the event, we knew we wanted to get involved.”

Danielle O’Neill, a national sales coordinator at NaturesPlus, spoke with a previous corporate team captain who raved about the camaraderie, team-building and fitness benefits of the event, and who provided tips to help companies make their inaugural participation a success.

“It was super-helpful to get some information about the logistics of the event,” she recalls. “Based on his advice, we had NaturesPlus team shirts made and encouraged everyone to go at their own pace and have fun. We also set up a tent, had a catered meal and had games so people could hang out after the walk. All of the feedback was positive.”

While raising money for local nonprofits is one of the main goals, Davidson notes that teams sign up for other reasons, too.

“Although about 60% of participants are walkers who appreciate the social atmosphere, there is a competitive aspect to the event for some of our runners,” she says.

Some Marcum Workplace Challenge participants are there for the camaraderie, others for the competition. Click To Tweet

The Marcum Workplace Challenge provides awards to the top male and female competitors and co-ed teams in four corporate categories: legal, healthcare, engineering and design, and first responders. There are also awards in non-competitive categories such as the Creative T-Shirt and Largest Team awards.

To help participants get across the finish line, Runner’s Edge, a local retailer, provides coaches upon request who will lead clinics to help teams prepare. Davidson notes that some regular participants want to beat their previous personal best times while others use the scenic walk as a chance to catch up with coworkers or connect with people who work for other companies.

Companies like NaturesPlus encourage employee participation in the Marcum Workplace Challenge to help build teamwork. Click To Tweet

Napolitano says that employees do not need to walk at all to benefit: “If you don’t want to walk or run, you can come out and be a part of it and support your coworkers.”

The Company Culture Committee is already planning for the 2020 event, scheduled for July 28. Napolitano hopes at least 60 employees will sign up.

“We loved the team-building aspect and the opportunity to support local charities,” Napolitano says. “I hope this will become a tradition.”

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