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Red Cross gets big boost from race

The American Red Cross was the beneficiary of the 32nd Annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge. About $30,000 will go to emergency services work.

"We're thrilled," said Nancy Blaschak, executive director of the Red Cross serving Erie and Niagara counties. "We got a call out of the blue a couple months ago and they said they picked us."

The Red Cross held its annual bash, its major fundraiser, last Friday. Approximately 4,500 people showed up on Delaware Ave. to celebrate.

"Most people don't realize that a house burns down every single day," Blaschak said. "About 1,000 people are left homeless every year as a result. This money is going to help those families."

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Mayor Byron Brown rang in the race right before the first fleet took off.

Brown was proud to show off his city and overjoyed with the massive crowd, Delaware Park's appearance, and the Challenge's financial after-effects; he said its impact is over $1 million for Buffalo.

"It's a tremendous event," he said. "It really gives us the opportunity to show off the kind of investments that we've made in our parks, last year alone over seven million dollars invested in parks city-wide, the largest investment in city parks in 20 years."

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This was a year of firsts for the Corporate Challenge. It was the first year runners were separated into three flights: groups of 850, 850, and 10,000. The groups were organized based on runners' best-guess times; serious sprinters lined up at the front and casual walkers hung in the third group. It was also the first year runners wore chips to clock their running times.

The crowd of 12,677 runners was the third-largest in Corporate Challenge history and the highest total in Buffalo history. The previous record was set in 2010 and this year's number was a 9 percent increase over last year's.

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Tops Friendly Markets amassed the largest group of the 445 companies. Six hundred thirty six workers participated for Tops. Buffalo Public Schools had the second-largest turnout with just under 400.

"Six hundred-plus associates here running as a family, it's awesome," said Tops runner Jon Douglas. "We had a big party before and the party starts again when we get back to the tent. Beautiful night, good crowd, just a good time."

Daphne Inman, who works for the corporate office in Williamsville, has captained the team for three years.

"It's a great morale booster, everyone loves it. It's a great time," Inman said. "We're just excited to be here and celebrate the health of our associates."

Smaller companies, like Norampac Industries out of Niagara Falls, are just happy to be there. Norampac totaled 20 runners.

"It was well-organized, they always have a good charity, just a good event," said team captain Mark Bozniak. "I've been running for three years now and it's a worthwhile thing to do.

"I don't try to break the record," he laughed. "I just try to survive."

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The top 10 men and women were:

MEN -- 1. Vasilis Kariolis (Dopkins & Co.) 17:51; 2. Jon French (University at Buffalo) 18:06; 3. Kevin Smith (Try-It Distributing Co.) 18:11; 4. Craig Baumgartner (Livingston International Inc.) 18:34; 5. Jonathan McDonald (Dopkins & Co.) 18:38; 6. Matt Glynn (The Buffalo News) 18:46; 7. David Welby (Fisher-Price) 18:47; 8. Russell Edwards (Catholic Health) 18:55; 9. Todd Witzleben (University at Buffalo) 18:57; 10. Jim Mollosky (University at Buffalo) 19:08.

WOMEN 1. Jennifer Koeppel-Acker (Amherst Central Schools) 20:35; 2. Allison Carr (NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) 21:08; 3. Mary Giza (Cleveland Biolabs Inc.) 21:14; Aileen Hoak (Canisius College) 21:23; 5. Amy Fakterowitz (Amherst Central Schools) 21:37; 6. Elizabeth Schultz (Time Warner Cable) 22:12; 7. Mary Aldridge (Ernst & Young) 22:23; 8. Jennifer Brady (Independent Health) 22:34; 9. Amanda Skorupski (Summit Educational Resources) 22:36; 10. Caitlin Donohue (Citigroup) 22:36.

email: amansfield@buffnews.com