Safe Passage’s Hot Chocolate Run set for 20th year on Sunday

Safe Passage’s 20th Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton on Sunday is expected to draw some 5,000 people.

Safe Passage’s 20th Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton on Sunday is expected to draw some 5,000 people. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By Emilee Klein

Staff Writer

Published: 11-30-2023 12:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Safe Passage celebrates an entire generation of Hot Chocolate Runs at the 20th annual race on Sunday.

“I keep thinking about the children who came to the first event in strollers. Their 20 now and may be fundraising themselves,” said Marianne Winters, executive director at Safe Passage. “It’s pretty remarkable that we’ve had a entire generation participant in this event.”

Over 5,000 participants will race through downtown Northampton in their choice between a 3k walk, a 5k fun run or a 5k race, with a warm cup of hot chocolate waiting at the finish line. The event, where racers come dressed in festive attire for the holiday season, raises money for Safe Passage’s mission to provide support and services to survivors of domestic violence.

“The Safe Passage staff are appreciative and amazed at how much the community supports this event and how much it uplifts the community,” said Natalie Ulrich, director of development at Safe Passage.

Two new fundraising tiers were added to honor the past 20 years of races. The top 20 fundraisers receive a special 20th anniversary fleece jacket. In addition to earning the Hot Chocolate Run’s signature red beanie and the long sleeve shirt with this year’s featured mug design, participants can snag long socks with the event’s polar bear and penguin logo.

Winters said that Safe Passage added a Spanish translator to interpret the speeches on the main stage. A tent for parents with young children will also be available to warm up, change diapers and provide some space away from the crowd.

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“We’re trying to give the message that this event is inclusive of everyone regardless of gender, age and language needs,” Winters said

The organization set a fundraising goal of $800,000 this year, a target the nonprofit nearly achieved last year and surpassed the year before. Currently, the organization has met 72% of its goal, but Ulrich said she’s optimistic about meeting the objective.

“Its very normal for us to see a surge in fundraising over the final week and we see that happening,” she said.

Money from the Hot Chocolate Run pays for all of Safe Passage’s programs, including its helpline, counseling and legal services and a new housing and economic empowerment program. Winter said the Hot Chocolate Run raises 25% of the nonprofit’s budget.

“There is not one thing we do at Safe Passage that is not positively impacted by this event,” she added.

The first race of the day begins at 9 a.m. with the walk, followed by the fun run at 9:30 a.m. and the footrace at 10:15 a.m. Prior to the races, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, Massachusetts state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa will speak to the participants.

Emilee Klein can be reached at