By Paul Gains
Spectators lining this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon course will not only experience the thrill of seeing world class runners compete for prize money in this IAAF Gold Label race but also a group of costumed runners dressed as their favourite superheroes.
Batman, Superman and Thor may not be as fast as those chasing course records but they run with passion and with a grand objective in mind – to raise awareness and to fundraise for local charities.
For more than 180 official charities, the 2016 Scotiabank Charity Challenge will provide much needed fundraising and awareness opportunities. This is an enormous source of pride for Kyle McNamara, Scotiabank’s Executive Vice President and co-head, Information Technology and Business Systems, who is himself an avid runner.
“Scotiabank believes in giving back to the communities where we live and work. We started the Scotiabank Charity Challenge in 2003 to help charities meet ambitious fundraising goals while giving runners the opportunity to race for causes close to their hearts,” says McNamara.
“Since we launched the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, runners in six community races across the country have collectively raised over $46 million for charities nationally and in 2016, together, we aim to surpass the $50 million fundraising milestone. We want to thank everyone for their fundraising efforts.”
Scotiabank hosts a Charity Challenge at each of their six marathon events in Montreal, Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. Each race profiles 3 featured charities. In 2016, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon’s featured charities are Asperger’s Society of Ontario, Epilepsy Halton Peel Hamilton and Oolagen Youth Mental Health.
This year ‘Batman versus Superman’ comes to the streets of Toronto as the now familiar and growing group of Justice League Runners will be among the thousands raising money for hundreds of causes. A year ago it was Toronto’s Sick Kids Foundation who was the beneficiary. This year it will be Oolagen Youth Mental Health, a Toronto children’s mental health charity.
“As someone who was bullied in Grade 9 I reached out to superheroes to find hope or courage,” says JP Hernandez, also known as ‘The Dark Knight.’ “I know people who have gone through that and they have found different avenues. It can be either tragic or an opportunity to do something positive.
“I have always been a comic fan; I kind of knew that superheroes stand up for those who can’t. I can see why some kids identify with that and I felt it was a great time to
switch to something more personal. And that’s why we chose Oolagen. I was looking for any charity that typically dealt with or helped with children dealing with this.”
Hernandez who runs up to 75 kilometres a week, originally met his colleagues on social media. Some would attend training sessions with him. Others he met for the first time in person just before the start of last year’s marathon.
“I will soon be putting out the call on our Facebook page recruiting new members asking if anybody wants to join us,” he adds. “The interest has grown. We had two teams last year at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. One ran the half marathon as well as the four of us that were the full marathon team.”
While the Justice League group dress in recognizable, and, not so comfortable costumes, David Charchalis has created his own super hero in order to draw attention and raise money for Epilepsy Halton Peel Hamilton where he works.
Inspired by the glamour and colour he experienced at the Caribbean Carnival, his alter ego has become Captain Epilepsy, a figure he hopes will empower people with epilepsy. The condition afflicts one in a hundred Canadians. Other than an annual Gala event, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon offers the largest fundraising opportunity for this charity. Charchalis plans to walk the 5km in costume and, along with a team of dozens, he plans to raise more than $25,000 this year.
“It’s extremely important,” Charchalis declares. “The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is a great way to raise money for our Sunny Days kids’ camp. It really helps us keep all of our programs free for our clients. It’s also a great way to get awareness and the name out there. We have a great time doing it.”
Though their fundraisers will be slightly less flamboyant, another charity that is celebrating its tenth year with the Scotiabank Charity Challenge is the Aspergers Society of Ontario. At the 2015 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon they raised more than $25,000. They hope to double that figure this year.
For their executive director, Alexandra Prefasi, involvement with the Scotiabank Charity Challenge is the most effective opportunity they can imagine.
“We are a small volunteer driven organization and we can’t run large scale campaigns like some of the larger Canadian charities do,” she says. “We just don’t have that kind of a profile. So events like this afford us the opportunity to, yes, raise funds for the society but also to raise our profile in communities like Toronto. We are able to talk about Aspergers and shine a light on our cause.”
Prefasi proudly claims a 100 per cent participation rate amongst staff and board members all of whom have personal experience with Aspergers, a form of autism. Prefasi’s daughter has Aspergers.
“Our staff and board of directors are all committed to our success in the marathon,” she explains. “So pretty much everyone participated in last year’s Scotiabank Charity Challenge in some way with our campaign from recruitment to fundraising and from promotion to actually walking and running with us.
“We bring together individuals from our community. That’s one of the things that’s pretty special. We have runners and walkers who can overcome the unique challenges of Aspergers Syndrome to participate in this kind of fundraising event for us.”
Runners don’t have to be superheroes to fundraise. Anyone looking to participate can register for the race and sign up for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge here. Participants are also invited to share their stories on social media using the hashtags #runScotia and #STWM.
For More Information and to Register for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half Marathon & 5k:
To join Asperger’s Society of Ontario, Epilepsy Peel Halton Hamilton, Oolagen Youth Mental Health or any of the other charities in the Charity Challenge: