Normally, warmer spring weather means road race season in towns and cities across the country, but with the dangers of COVID-19, many of these fundraising racing events have been shut down. Despite the cancellation of road races, the current crisis has inspired more and more people to donate money to relief funds and to give back to their communities.
In hopes of embracing this feeling and uniting their local and remote communities, Bowdoin alum and former women’s lacrosse player Sophie Lubrano ’19 and her two sisters hosted a virtual run/walk 5k race this past weekend, raising $27,545 for the COVID-19 Response Fund launched by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP).
“We want to support all of those people who are giving everything they have to aid those around them, whether it’s the sick, the unemployed or the afraid,” wrote the Lubranos on their GoFundMe page. “That’s why we’ve decided to use our healthy bodies and our spare time—two luxuries that not everyone has right now—to raise money for the brave people fighting for all of our safety.”
“With the circumstances, you can’t really go out and volunteer,” said Sophie in a phone interview with the Orient. “You can donate to a lot of different funds, but it doesn’t have the same kind of uniting sense, so we decided to talk to Positive Tracks (PosTracks) to figure out what the best way to organize an event would be, because this is really their specialty.”
The partnership with PosTracks was natural for the Lubranos. The organization, started in 2009 by a group of ten-year-olds in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire—where the Lubranos live—connected the sisters with the CDP and gave them the tools they needed to organize the event.
“At the beginning, we thought that [a goal of] $10,000 was going to be ambitious. We hit that in a week, and we kept raising our goal higher and higher,” Sophie said. “And then in the last few days, we raised over $6,000! It was crazy because tons of people heard about it through word of mouth, and we had people all across the [United] States, [even] in California and Montana, who [were] participating—a lot of [people] who we don’t even know.”
Two of the participants were Karlye Pallotta ’22 and Irene Lunt ’21, members of the Bowdoin softball and women’s lacrosse teams, respectively.
“I heard about it through a teammate on the Bowdoin Student Athlete Advisory Committee,” said Pallotta in a phone interview with the Orient. “We’ve been looking for ways to try and stay connected and try and stay in shape, so [this 5k] instantly caught my eye and I thought that it was a great opportunity to take control of something in a pretty uncontrollable time.”
The event not only provided Bowdoin athletes with a means to make a meaningful contribution to the fight against COVID-19, but it also gave athletes a sense of community that had been lost since the cancelation of spring sports.
“It’s a totally different atmosphere than passing the crowds, running in groups, or seeing water stations like in a real road race. But there was a sense of solidarity starting it at the same time,” said Lunt in a phone interview with the Orient. “I felt more connected in a very different way because I knew we were all running for the same purpose. I thought that was really awesome to be a part of.”
Sophie attributed much of the event’s success to that sense of community, especially when it came to the hundreds of people scattered around the country who participated.
“I would credit a lot of the success of the event not only to the community where we live, but to the community of Bowdoin—and of Colby as well, because my two sisters go to Colby,” said Lubrano. “Those two communities are obviously very tight-knit small colleges. And we got a ton of participation [because of that], so that was awesome.”
She added that the desire to give back and help out during a time of crisis also seemed to motivate participants. That much was true for Pallotta.
“It felt awesome to do something positive for myself and take as much control in this situation as we possibly could, while [also] doing something productive for a lot of people that are kind of on the foreground of dealing with the crisis head-on,” Pallotta said. “It was just a great event.”