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Richmond designated a Runner Friendly Community by the Road Runners Club of America

Richmond isn’t just home to ‘America’s Friendliest Marathon’; it’s also officially a Runner Friendly Community. The designation was made official by the Road Runners Club of America after Sports Backers, and the Richmond Road Runners Club applied to be recognized.

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Richmond isn’t just home to ‘America’s Friendliest Marathon’; it’s also officially a Runner Friendly Community. The designation was made official by the Road Runners Club of America after Sports Backers, and the Richmond Road Runners Club applied to be recognized.

RRCA looked at the following aspects when reviewing applications – community infrastructure, community support, and local government support. Each of these segments had a list of requirements that Runner Friendly Communities must meet to be considered. All applicants had to prove that their community supports running by working with public and private groups and that they can maintain infrastructure that makes running safe and enjoyable for all.

“Running provides Richmonders with numerous health benefits, and the large-scale events we host also provide a positive economic boost to many local businesses. Our beautiful and scenic neighborhoods, along with the James River, serve as the setting for popular events such as the Richmond Marathon and Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, with enthusiastic supporters lining the courses to provide encouragement and motivation for participants,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “While these annual events are special occasions and memorable experiences for those involved, you can see people enjoying running on a daily basis throughout Richmond.”

Nationally acclaimed professional runner Keira D’Amato echoed Mayor Stoney’s support and wrote a letter to RRCA stating that Richmond holds it own as a standout running location.

“The journey of a life in running has taken me around the U.S. and the world, and all the while, Richmond has been home for me and my family. The infrastructure, accessibility, and community support in Richmond provide me with everything I need to train and compete at a high level while staying engaged with the local running community,” D’Amato said.

In addition to Mayor Stoney and D’Amato, several other individuals and groups showed support during the application process, including Katherine O’Donnell, CDME Executive Vice President of Richmond Region Tourism, Jeff Wells, Owner of Fleet Feet Richmond, Neil Amin, Chief Executive Office of Shamin Hotels, and Anthony and Tara Clary, Co-Founders of We Off the Couch Fitness Group.

As a Runner Friendly Community, Richmond will be listed on the RRCA website and will receive a commemorative plaque. Richmond will be featured in a national press release from the RRCA and the RRCA Annual Report, will receive window decals to be placed in runner-friendly businesses, and will be able to use the RRCA Runner Friendly Community logo.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.

Community

James River Association is Recruiting Students for the Adventure of a Lifetime

The James River Association (JRA) is currently seeking student and teacher applications for James River Leadership Expeditions (JRLE), a year-long program for high schoolers interested in advocating for the James River.

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The James River Association (JRA) is currently seeking student and teacher applications for James River Leadership Expeditions (JRLE), a year-long program for high schoolers interested in advocating for the James River.

Photo Credit: JRA

The program is segmented into four sessions running from July 2023 through May 2024, and it provides students with the opportunity to enjoy river-based education, build new friendships, develop leadership skills, and carry out a community capstone project. JRA will accept 30 students in the 2023-24 program across the James River watershed.

JRLE kicks off during the summer with Session One, perhaps the program’s most beloved experience: a week-long, overnight paddle adventure on the James River. These trips are divided into three excursions covering the Upper, Middle, and Lower James.

Photo Credit: JRA

Throughout the trip, students learn technical skills like how to canoe and camp overnight and they receive further education through unparalleled access to local culture, history, and environmental teachings. They also experience a highly unique setting that gives them the chance to build confidence, self-esteem, and relationships with their fellow participants.

Nash McDowell, a JRLE alum who previously participated in the program, has this advice for students considering the program: “If I could tell students one thing, it’s that you will never experience something like this again. The James River Association is offering an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. To spend one week on the James River, technology-free, with good company, is something very hard to find. When the opportunity presents itself, take it.”

Continuing into the school year, JRLE’s second session offers an overnight brainstorming event where students discuss community capstone projects together. The third session consists of a working group complete with games that tap into personality styles, self-awareness, public speaking, and relationship management. The program ends with session four, a leadership launch and environmental symposium, where students can present their capstone projects and celebrate their accomplishments for the year.

“Through James River Leadership Expeditions, students learn they are capable of far more than they realize,” said Genevieve Wall, Senior Environmental Educator for JRA. “The experiences and relationships they build throughout the program help provide skills and awareness they will develop and use for years to come. As educators, we are honored to be able to sow seeds of knowledge, understanding, and connection to the James River through this unique and life-changing program. We look forward to welcoming new river stewards of tomorrow to our 2023-24 season.”

Photo Credit: JRA

The James River Leadership Expeditions program is made possible in part by generous support from the Luck Companies Foundation Fund. To learn more about JRLE and apply, visit https://thejamesriver.org/students-of-the-james/james-river-leadership-expeditions/.

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Hills & Heights

Chesapeake Bay Foundation receives grant to remove pavement, add 300 trees across Richmond

Building on seven years of efforts in Central Virginia to plant trees at churches and community spaces, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and partners will remove pavement, install conservation practices, and plant hundreds of trees in Richmond and Petersburg under a new grant.

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Building on seven years of efforts in Central Virginia to plant trees at churches and community spaces, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and partners will remove pavement, install conservation practices, and plant hundreds of trees in Richmond and Petersburg under a new grant.

By removing heat-absorbing pavement and replacing it with shade trees, the effort will cool neighborhoods where research shows extreme heat threatens the health of residents. The conservation practices will allow trees to absorb moisture and rain to soak in where it lands, reducing polluted runoff and flooding.

“Working hand-in-hand with churches, schools, and parks, together we can improve the health and wellbeing of residents while also creating cleaner air and water,” said CBF Virginia Director of Outreach and Advocacy Ann Jurczyk.

The grant awarded this month by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation supports the planting of 300 trees on Richmond city property and work with up to seven churches to remove pavement, install stormwater practices, and plant trees and native plants. Major partners include Interfaith Power & Light, the City of Richmond, Groundwork RVA, the Virginia Department of Forestry, Southside ReLeaf, and the Richmond ToolBank.

This expands on the Greening Southside Richmond Project, which since 2020 has planted 650 new trees in Richmond neighborhoods suffering from extreme heat linked to racially-motivated housing discrimination in the past. Today, some of these neighborhoods can be up to 16 degrees hotter than tree-covered parts of the same city.

The link between extreme heat and redlining is documented in a recent study by the Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Portland State University.

Working with faith communities has been central to these planting efforts. Starting in 2015, CBF worked with Second Baptist Church of South Richmond to remove part of their parking lot and plant a rain garden that reduces runoff to James River. The project also supported the creation of an urban farm and community garden that is irrigated with rainfall collected from the church roof. The effort has supplied fresh produce to the community and sparked a farmer’s market.

At Branch’s Baptist Church in Richmond’s Southside, in 2018 CBF worked with the church to plant 100 trees on their property. That project led to a larger effort completed this year at Branch’s Baptist that removed 20,000 square feet of pavement and reforested the area with trees.

Under the new project, CBF will partner with Virginia Interfaith Power and Light (VAIPL) to work with five to seven churches to assess, develop, and install green practices on these churches’ properties. The groups will also host a series of educational webinars to help faith communities in their environmental stewardship efforts. The webinars will support clergy in fostering the connection between congregants and the environment and discuss ideas for greening their churches.

“We are excited and ready to work with several faith communities in the Richmond and Petersburg area and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to improve water and air quality,” said Faith Harris, executive director of VAIPL. “Helping faith communities learn how to actively participate in lowering temperatures, improving water quality, and reducing their energy use is important for addressing the impacts of the climate crisis. These faith communities and their members have the potential to support meaningful community involvement in protecting the watershed, and the benefits will reverberate for years to come.”

Southside ReLeaf, which strives to foster a healthy, equitable, and sustainable environment for all residents in South Richmond, is an important partner in the effort.

“We are excited to continue our work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to greenline communities impacted by the legacy of redlining and urban renewal,” said Sheri Shannon, co-founder of Southside ReLeaf. “In the last two years, planting and caring for trees has generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest from our neighbors in South Richmond. We look forward to educating, engaging, and empowering more residents to create healthy communities.”

The City of Richmond has worked closely with the groups to plant and maintain trees on city property.

“Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities is grateful for the dedication and partnerships of nonprofit agencies looking to fill the gaps within the urban canopy. The work that has been completed to date will provide lasting benefits for all that utilize the green space in Richmond,” said Tamara Jenkins, spokesperson for Richmond’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities Department

Recent high school graduates will take part in hands-on training for green jobs while planting trees, maintaining them, and landscaping as part of Groundwork RVA’s Green Workforce Program. These youth will gain marketable job skills by learning techniques for landscaping, tree planting, and maintenance.

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Outdoors

Sports Backers kicks off ‘Building a Vibrant Community’ fundraising campaign

The $3 million, five-year campaign has raised more than $1.5 million to date.

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Sports Backers, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring people to live actively, kicked off their ‘Building a Vibrant Community’ campaign with the announcement that the campaign has already raised more than $1.5 million towards its $3 million, five-year goal.

“The Building a Vibrant Community campaign will raise funds to make a lasting impact on the Richmond region,” said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers. “This campaign will help us grow and create major events, expand the number of group fitness and youth activity programs we offer, build world-class bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and empower volunteer leaders and our region’s best and brightest scholar-athletes. As a result, our region will be a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work, and play.”

The initial success of the Building a Vibrant Community campaign is thanks to contribution pledges from corporations, foundations, community leaders, and regional governments. The campaign is led by Chairman Daniel Gecker, Chair and Partner for Urban Development Associates. Members of the Campaign Committee include the following community leaders:

  • Carrie Roth, Chair of Sports Backers Board of Directors, Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission
  • Neil Agnihotri, Surgeon, Agnihotri Cosmetic Facial Surgery
  • Lashrecse Aird, Richard Bland College of William & Mary
  • Neil Amin, CEO, Shamin Hotels
  • Bob Blue, CEO, Dominion Energy
  • Suzanne Gardner, Banking Relationship Manager, Wells Fargo Bank
  • Roy Grier, Community Volunteer
  • Burke King, Community Volunteer
  • Kim MacLeod, Finance Partner, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
  • Sam Mintz, Financial Advisor, Truist
  • Clark Mercer, Community Volunteer
  • Ken Shepard, Managing Director and Head of Wealth Portfolio Strategy, Bank of America
  • Bobby Ukrop, CEO & President, Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods
  • Tom Vozenilek, Executive Vice President, Colliers International

An investment in this $3 million campaign benefits the Richmond region by:

  • Energizing the Richmond community by reinvesting in significant events, expanding the goal-setting impacts of all events, and creating new events
  • Advocating for active living infrastructure, including the Fall Line trail, and creating an active living hub for the region
  • Hosting group fitness programs, including weekly fitness classes, youth fitness clubs, and training teams, as well as a scholar-athlete leadership program

“My confidence in the impact Sports Backers will continue to have on the health and vibrancy of our community has never been stronger,” said campaign chairman Daniel Gecker. “Sports Backers’ ingenuity and dedication to their mission has helped keep our entire community moving during one of the most challenging periods of our lives. This campaign will build on that and provide even more opportunities to get us moving, which is something we all have a renewed appreciation for.”

The following foundations, individuals, companies, and jurisdictions have already made significant contributions to the Building a Vibrant Community campaign: 

  • Lashrecse Aird
  • Allianz Partners
  • Astrya
  • Bank of America
  • Bob & Liz Blue
  • Margaret & Al Broaddus
  • Cameron Foundation
  • Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond
  • Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer
  • Davis Elkins Charitable Foundation Trust
  • Susan & Lennart Freeman
  • Don & Betsy Garber
  • Suzanne Gardner
  • Matt & Kirsti Goodwin
  • Greater Richmond Partnership
  • Roy & Charlotte Grier
  • Hanover County
  • Henrico County
  • Heritage Wealth Advisors
  • Hunton Andrews Kurth
  • Dorothy Jaeckle
  • John Randolph Foundation
  • Chris & Nancy Jo Kantner
  • Burke & Gay King
  • KPMG
  • Maria (Keech) leGrand
  • David Lyons
  • Kim MacLeod
  • Clark Mercer
  • Sam Mintz
  • Randy & Mary Lloyd Parks
  • Frank & Caren Payne
  • P.D. Brooks
  • Maria Purcell
  • City of Richmond
  • Richmond Region Tourism
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Road Runners Club of America
  • RMC Events
  • Sam & Nikki Young
  • S.B. Cox
  • Scott* and Karen Schricker
  • Shamin Hotels
  • Ken & Brooke Shepard
  • Bob & Melinda Sledd
  • Buck Stinson
  • Barbara J. Thalhimer & William B. Thalhimer, Jr. Family Fund
  • Jayne & Bobby Ukrop
  • Tom & Betty Baugh Vozenilek
  • Tamara Wagner
  • Lee & Margie Warfield
  • Craig & Anita Waters

(* Denotes deceased)

To learn more about Sports Backers and the Building a Vibrant Community campaign, visitwww.sportsbackers.org or contact Megan Capito, Director of Development, at 804-285-9495 or[email protected].

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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