“I sent out a post-race anonymous survey on Saturday to get people’s thoughts and we’ve already had about 200 people respond. It’s overwhelmingly positive how much they love Gulfport and what a great vibe there was,” said Jennifer Fleming, senior creative and media relations manager for Goodwill Industries-Suncoast. “Gulfport is the perfect fit.”
This year, the after-party and awards ceremony was held inside the Casino, which can accommodate a large crowd in air conditioning, she said. During the inaugural year, a local bar hosted the festivities and about half the space was outdoors. The Casino will continue to be a part of the event next year.
A total of 812 people registered and 77 of those were “virtual” runners, said Fleming. Virtual runners receive their tee shirt and medal by mail while everyone else receives theirs the day of the event.
The total participants were a bit under the turnout for 2016, but last year it was held in May, which is outside of the peak race-running season, said Fleming. On April 1 of this year, the Goodwill race was “smack in the middle of it and we had a lot of competition including big name races like the Escape from Ft. DeSoto Triathlon. There were probably 20 races in the Tampa Bay Area. There are 5Ks all over the place.”
As of Tuesday, April 4, Goodwill was still calculating the value of the event’s donations, but “between sponsorships and registrations, we raised $38,000,” she said, more than in 2016 because this year there were 23 sponsors.
The money goes to Goodwill programs that “support people who are trying to get back to work that have barriers to employment, whether it’s a disability or in our work-release program. We also have a job-connection center that helps people find jobs.”