Chocolate Run runs away with $32,000

Michelle Norsworthy

Three years ago, a group of about 21 people teamed up with Open Hearts Community Mission to create something that could only be classified as greatness. That group – the Leadership Bulloch Class of 2013 – wanted not only to make a difference, but to leave a legacy that would survive long after they’d graduated.

Their solution? The Chocolate Run, Statesboro’s sweetest, messiest 5K race.

“We wanted something that would leave a legacy,” Jennifer Douglas, one of the event coordinators, said. “Not something we did one year and we’re done. We wanted something that would stay awhile after we’d left and graduated.”

In its first two years, the Chocolate Run raised $45,000 to help OHCM build Statesboro’s first homeless shelter. This year, the run went above and beyond its yearly profit – and its number of participants.

The 3rd Annual Chocolate Run took place for the first time on Georgia Southern University’s campus Saturday, January 21. The event drew in more than 700 runners and about $32,000 in funds. Not only did this year exceed its average, but it also took place the day after OHCM broke ground on the homeless shelter – which is predicted to open at the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016.

“I think everything turned out great,” Douglas said, “Especially knowing the number of runners we had, we didn’t expect the turn out this year so we’re pleasantly surprised.”

In previous years, the average number of participants was around 500. Newcomers, like Mary Gilbreth, were more than pleasantly surprised by the Chocolate Run.

Gilbreth, who is a GSU alumna, is no stranger to 5K races. However, this 5K race had a sweet twist.

“It was great. I love chocolate, so obviously that was a good thing,” Gilbreth said. “It feels good. You’re doing it for exercise, and a great cause, and it’s a really good feeling.”

Another newcomer, Yalinda Williams, came with several coworkers from Pineland, a center in Statesboro that services people with mental, developmental and addiction challenges.

“I love it,” Wiliams said, “I didn’t know it was this big of an event. It just shows me how a community can come together for a good cause.”