The annual Neuse River Bridge Run was a fall staple for nearly a dozen years, drawing thousands of runners to New Bern.
Hurricane Matthew changed that last year, forcing organizers to postpone the multi-race event, which benefits local charitable organizations.
They rescheduled for March of this year and were overwhelmingly surprised by the results — so much so that March is now the new permanent time for the event.
“I think it was our best year, with more than 1,600 participants,” said Gary Kenefick, who chairs the races. “Our previous best year was about 1,500 and an extra 100 certainly contributes to the value.”
So, with the 2017 event in the books, the 2018 Bridge Run will be March 23 and 24, with the opening day including registration and the popular “Super Kids Fun Run.” It is for children from ages 5 to 10. The March event drew more than 160 youngsters.
The following day there will be 5K, 10K and half-marathon running options on three courses.
“What is appealing is that we have the different races and the whole family can do it,” Kenefick said.
All courses are certified by the United States Track and Field organization. Every registered runner is timed and results are included in a database that allows them to potentially qualify for other events that range from local and regional races to nationally known marathons.
Registration is already available on the web at Neuseriverbridgerun.org
The Neuse River Bridge Run has generated funding and support for local nonprofit organizations that provide services, advocacy, and encouragement to more than 150,000 people each year in Craven and surrounding counties.
The Neuse River Bridge Run Committee is comprised of representatives of local nonprofit organizations and at-large members who participate because they support the goals and contributions of the organizations, according to Kenefick. The last event generated more than $60,000.
Kenefick said that the March event had 90 percent of the 1,600 participants coming from North Carolina. The remaining 10 percent were from the East Coast and throughout the country.
Organizers promote the Neuse River Bridge Run and its major sponsors through newspapers, radio, television, running magazines, national web sites, social media, billboards in and around New Bern, and a mailing list of more than 6,000 athletes.
The organizations that benefit from the revenue generated by the Neuese River Bridge Run are:
■ Religious Community Services: This local shelter serves residents of Craven, Jones, Pamlico, and Carteret counties. RCS offers a community kitchen with no-cost lunches every day; food and clothing assistance; financial, transportation, and prescription assistance; rent and utility assistance; and shelter. RCS helps clients with case management and access to resources to meet their goals;
■ Promise Place: A sexual assault and rape crisis center that supports victims and their families in Craven, Jones and Onslow counties through counseling, victim advocacy, and the development of community awareness of sexual assault;
■ Mediation Center of Eastern North Carolina: The mission is to help individuals in the communities of Eastern Carolina develop the capacity to respectfully resolve conflict. Through mediation, education, and facilitation. MCEC serves youth, families and adult community members in nine Eastern North Carolina counties. Among its services, MCEC provides an alternative to Juvenile Court through the Teen Court Program;
■ Craven Arts Council & Gallery: It offers a variety of art to local communities. Through exhibitions and performances at The Bank of the Arts, it exposes adults and children to various forms of artistic expression, while creating an environment where the arts can thrive and bring joy;
■ MERCI Clinic: It is a private nonprofit providing confidential medical, limited dental and pharmaceutical services to low income, uninsured residents of Craven, Jones, and Pamlico counties. It helps eliminate dependence on the emergency room for non-life threatening events, and helps return active adults to the workforce. MERCI patients visited the Clinic more than 5,700 times in 2016 for physician appointments, medication pick up, blood pressure checks, diabetes education and lab work. Patients received more than $500,000 in specialty care and diagnostics from MERCI’s many partners in the medical community.
■ Twin Rivers YMCA: As a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, the Y was created in response to social challenges and remains a lifeline in the community. It has the resources to address the most pressing social issues — child welfare, education, health, and social connection.
■ Craven Community College Foundation: It was founded in 1977 to provide financial support to the Craven Community College students and college programs. The foundation offers the community a vehicle for providing financial assistance, promotes self-sufficiency by enabling students with financial needs, facilitating community access to the college’s resources, serving as an ambassador for the college to the general public, and enhancing the college’s education goals.
Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieHallNBSJ