GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 23, 2013

Pride Stride steps off for 26th time Sunday

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — Walk-a-thon fundraisers such as the March of Dimes or a walk to cure AIDS may have more national recognition, but Gloucester’s Pride Stride, which unites all of Cape Ann in one common goal — to directly support dozens of Cape Ann’s nonprofits — has history on its side, as well.

The fundraising walk now in its 26th year, will step off Sunday, and had already raised $6,700 as of Monday. With that, the Pride Stride breezed passed the $1 million mark since its inception in 1988, according to David Stotzer, a member of the Pride Stride Committee.

This year, there are more than 15 nonprofit organizations registered as of Monday for the walk, while some 20 nonprofits preregistered last year. But while that number is down to date, Stotzer said there is still time for groups to sign up to participate, and many people show up the day of the walk-a-thon to register and donate in person.

The amount raised also sees a sharp increase on the day of the event and the days following.

”Pledges come leaking in weeks after the event,” Stotzer said.

The fundraiser usually brings in anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 in donations and draws in anywhere from 250 to 500 walkers, depending on the weather.

Stotzer said the top nonprofits usually include Cape Ann Animal Aid, which opened its new shelter last year, the YMCA Teen Leaders program, The Open Door food pantry and service organization, and education groups, such as Eastern Point Day School.

Corporate sponsors cumulatively donate anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 annually for food, entertainment, supplies and pledge awards. Any money leftover gets put into a scholarship fund, Stotzer said.

The five-mile, rain or shine, walk will follow its usual route; looping from Stage Fort Park to Stacy Boulevard onto Rogers Street, the Jodrey State Fish Peer, then back down to Main Street.

However, this was not always the walk-a-thon path.

Stotzer, who has been serving on the volunteer Pride Stride Committee for about nine years, said the first iterations began on Good Harbor Beach. But one year, the beach parking lot was full of construction equipment, prompting the move to Stage Fort Park.

”We fell it love with it after our first year and have stayed with it ever since,” Stotzer said.

Pledges will be collected beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Stage Fort Park visitors center, while the walk starts at noon and runs to 3 p.m., with food, drinks and entertainment donated by local businesses when walkers finish.

He added the volunteer committee members help by coordinating the whole event, many of which have been doing so for nearly a decade.

”It’s an outstanding group of people,” he said.

There are many more than just the eight committee members involved in the event, Stotzer said he started off with helping out on the grill during a similar fundraiser, he also met his wife at a Pride Stride event.

”The level of community involvement is just amazing,” he said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.