WATERTOWN — About 100 people lined up Saturday underneath the JB Wise Pavilion to take part in the third annual Race Against Poverty while also supporting a local workshop that helps fight poverty.
Participants in teams of two sprinted throughout downtown with clue sheets in hand scouring for all 15 veiled business destinations in the “Amazing Race”-style scavenger hunt. Each enterprise presented a challenge contestants had to complete, including a Jenga challenge at Marcy Spa And Salon and guess-the mystery-cupcake-flavor at April’s Cake Shop. The three teams that completed all the challenges and returned to the pavilion the fastest claimed cash prizes of up to $200.
Amber Richardson and Karla Stefanini, both from Watertown, claimed first place after sprinting to the pavilion and passing the finish line in one hour and four minutes. Ms. Stefanini said they participated to support the cause and satisfy their competitive nature.
“Other than raising money for a good cause, the second greatest part was learning about the downtown businesses,” she said.
The Jefferson County Leadership Institute and Northern New York Community Foundation team up for the event each year to raise money for the “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World,” a free 16-week workshop series providing those living in poverty the tools to get themselves out of it.
Aaron Naklick, event co-chair and a 2017 graduate of the leadership institute, said this year’s race garnered 55 participating teams, up from the 32 that signed up last year. Each team has to pay a $50 entry fee. This year’s event raised about $25,000, Mr. Naklick said.
“The coolest part about what we do is seeing lives change,” he said. “It’s almost difficult to put into words how proud I am of my team, and what we’re doing to give back to the community is incredible.”
The Institute’s class of 2017 teamed up with the Watertown Urban Mission, Community Action Planning Council and Volunteer Transportation Center to create the course in 2017, and it has since produced 56 graduates.
“It gives you steps on how to — you know — stop and re-evaluate things. We talked about the theory of change, how you can set yourself a plan, make up things to push yourself forward,” said Zoel Munson, a 2019 graduate of the workshop. “It actually encouraged me to take a position at my job at the Watertown Urban Mission that I didn’t think I would be good for, but apparently it turns out I’m excelling at ... if it weren’t for the class I don’t think I would have had the courage to actually apply for it.
The class also introduced the Race Against Poverty in 2017 to support the workshop. Mr. Naklick said the race has since raised more than $100,000, which includes a $25,000 allocation provided by the community foundation last year.
“Really incredible stuff in the north country,” he said.
n First place team: Amber Richardson and Karla Stefanini
n Number of participating teams: 55
n Money raised this year: $25,0000
n Money raised in the past three years: $100,000