COVID-19 postpones SurvivorFest

Runners in the first annual SurvivorFest24 event ran six-hours, 12-hours, or 24-hours straight at the Strathcona Athletic Park on June 8-9, 2019 to raise funds for Saffron. The 2020 event has been postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lindsay Morey/News Staff/File

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The writing was on the wall to defer this year’s SurvivorFest when the province significantly reduced the number of gatherings to 15 people earlier this spring, in addition to the county closing all of its parks.

All athletes were contacted to either defer their registration to 2021 or have a 50 per cent refund. Only two wanted refunds, a few more asked for their registration fees to be donated to Saffron, and the remaining 30 athletes will return next year.

“We were pretty upset because our first year was so successful,” SurvivorFest 24 Hour Race founder and race organizer, Laura Townsend. “The athletes’ dedication is so appreciated. We’re excited to bring an even better event back next year.”

Budget wise, the event, which was set for June 13-14, is in good financial standing as it didn’t yet require a deposit from the county to reserve the Strathcona Athletic Park and a merchandise order wasn’t placed because final registration was not confirmed when the event was pulled.

Laura Townsend, race director and founder of SurvivorFest 24 Hour Race. Lindsay Morey/News Staff/File

The inaugural 2019 event involved 35 athletes participate across three timed races — a six-hour, a 12-hour and a 24-hour — in a continuous loop around the 400-metre track at the Strathcona Athletic Park. Around 50 volunteers provided support.

“I was just blown away. Sometimes a first-time event is hard to get off the ground, and it was a huge success. If we can get more athletes, it will be even more successful. With the great reviews that we had last year from the athletes, we were able to secure the 2020 national championship (which we will get again next year since everything is getting deferred). Once all of this all COVID-19 health regulations settle down a bit, these smaller events will be where athletes are going to want to go because we’ll be able to control it; the environment, the food, who comes in,” said Townsend.

Townsend is a sexual assault survivor herself and is passionate about supporting Saffron Sexual Assault Centre’s ability to provide more counselling to those who need it as well as reaching the next generation to increase awareness around healthy relationships.

“Saffron is going to need support more than ever in the next couple of months,” noted Townsend.

SurvivorFest 24 Hour Race founder and race director, Laura Townsend recently provided a $1,000 donation to Sherwood Park’s Saffron Sexual Assault Centre. Photo Supplied

Saffron’s executive director, Katie Kitschke thanked the event for its recent $1,000-plus donation. That donation also included $500 in gift cards from Fir Street’s Save-On-Foods.

“SurvivorFest targets a totally different demographic than the Consent Event, so it increased the awareness of sexual violence to a totally different group of people, not only in the community but also nationally and internationally as her event is something that attracts runners from around the world,” said Kitschke.

“Laura is such an ambassador of resilience after trauma with her story. She is an amazing example to everyone how one person can make a huge difference for so many. SurvivorFest will be donating more than $1,000 to Saffron and this is so important to us right now, with the lack of ability for us, and all nonprofits to do the events we rely on so much to raise funds for our organization. We budget for about $25,000 for fundraising per year, and this year we will struggle to get $10,000. We are so proud of Laura and all she does in our community.”

lmorey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/LindsayDMorey

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