Running and fundraising are two things in life that will always require effort and support. The intersection of these two things has been vital for ICHS (International Community Health Services) since 2016, when they began holding their annual Lunar New Year 5k event. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability to hold communal gatherings, ICHS has found a solution that allows them to put on the event and continue to raise money to fund free or low-cost health care services for patients in the community in a socially distant way.

“The Lunar New Year 5k is fundamentally a fundraising event. It’s an opportunity for the community to come together and support our mission as the International Community Health Services foundation, to raise money for patient health services,” said Theo Bickel, digital communications specialist at ICHS.

While this event cannot take place in all of the same ways that it has in previous years, COVID-19 has given ICHS the opportunity to get their creative juices flowing in order to plan and execute the annual 5k in a safe and virtual way.

“A big part of our virtual event is to make sure that people are still connected,” said Bickel.

With health and safety at the forefront of each decision made, it is essential to ICHS that people are united and feel close to each other throughout this event, even if that means sharing their experiences and runs through a screen rather than in person.

“One of the components that we have for the races is in-person packet pick-ups. These are times in which people would meet us at a location and actually pick up their race materials and it’s a fun opportunity to see people in person and to share a little bit more about ICHS” said Bickel. “This year of course, we have to cancel that.”

Runners take off during a Lunar New Year 5k from a past year. Photo courtesy of ICHS.

Despite the fact that in-person packet pick ups are not an option this year, social media will allow the 5k participants to have similar conversations and meaningful interactions with one another without risking exposure to COVID-19.

 “I’m really looking forward to seeing everybody’s faces on social media and their photos that they will be posting. I know for many of the registrants, they’re really looking forward to sharing their experiences and showing where their favorite runs are,” said Bickel.

Not only are participants still able to run and contribute funds for a beneficial cause, they also have more flexibility this year in choosing when and where they would like to complete their run during the week of February 12th to 18th. 

“We don’t want to compare apples to oranges. This event is a new opportunity and we’re open to people coming in and joining from all over,” said Bickel. “At this time we actually do have some registrants all the way from Florida and different states which has been an awesome opportunity for us.”

With the ability to participate virtually, there is no such thing as geographic boundaries or barriers in the 2021 Year of the Ox Lunar New Year. People from various parts of the country have proven that they can take part in this year’s 5k and connect with other participants regardless of where they are located.

The changes that COVID-19 has brought into every aspect of people’s lives have taught organizations such as ICHS the beauty of new opportunities and ways of working around obstacles to create something magnificent.

The perseverance displayed by ICHS and all of the event registrants is a clear indication that the Lunar New Year 5k is a race that everybody can win. 

“We just want to make sure everybody knows that they can join and it’s going to be a great event,” said Bickel.

The ICHS Lunar New Year 5k will be held Feb. 12 – 18, 2021. Register and get more information: 

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