Near-record crowd celebrates fitness,
camaraderie at Chicago's Grant Park
In summer-like conditions, members of Allstate gather for a pre-race photo at the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Grant Park. Allstate helped push attendance at Chicago to more than 23,000 participants from 628 companies.
Gian-Paul Caccia of Wolverine Execution Services breaks the tape to win the men's title at the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, while Jill Czarnik of Accenture (below) successfully defends her women's title.
CHICAGO, May 24, 2012 — As the 31st annual JPMorgan Chase & Co. Corporate Challenge® began to wind down at Grant Park, post-race celebrations started in earnest at tents that housed many of the near-record crowd of 23,030 participants from 628 companies.
Among the post-race parties was the gathering at Allstate's tent, where a large group of 181 employees and executives assembled in one of America's most beautiful urban park settings. With the shoreline of Lake Michigan and the evening skyline of Chicago providing backdrops, Allstate's team celebrated the unofficial kick-off of the Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer in Chicago.
For Allstate, it marked not just another successful run in the Corporate Challenge, but also a spirited re-affirmation of the importance of fitness and team-building in the corporate workplace.
“The JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge is a great opportunity to build teamwork and promote a healthy lifestyle for Allstate employees,” said Elizabeth Sickman, Assistant Program Manager at Allstate’s Good Life Fitness Center and the team's company captain. “When our employees are healthier, more engaged and purpose-driven, they will be more balanced and productive in all aspects of their lives and therefore, we encourage them to get involved.”
Allstate and the other companies certainly had a great night to run and party. It felt like summer with race time temperatures in the 80's, accompanied by a much-welcome steady breeze. The contrast to the 2011 race — when a cold rain during the day left Grant Park bone-chillingly damp — was striking.
There was nothing but a beautiful sunset when Gian-Paul Caccia of Wolverine Execution Services broke the tape as the men’s winner in 17:24. Caccia bested Emil Bojanov of SAP by a mere six seconds while Renat Zalov of Bank of America Merrill Lynch was a more distant third in 18:21. Caccia was a runner-up last year.
Jill Czarnik of Accenture was the first woman, successfully defending her 2011 individual title. Czarnik blew away the women's field, crossing the Balbo Street finish line in 21:05, significantly in front of runner-up Yelena Nanaziashvili of the Principal Financial Group. Katelyn Draths of Northern Trust earned the bronze in 21:51.
Caccia and Czarnik’s efforts were stellar at any level. The worldwide J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship was held on the same Grant Park course on this night, with a starting horn five minutes prior to the Chicago race. Caccia’s time would have been good enough for ninth overall in the men's race while Czarnik would have placed fourth in the women's field. The Championship featured the best men's, women's and mixed teams from the 13 cities in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series.
Trading Technologies had 49 employees partying post-race in the red hospitality area at Grant Park. Rebekah Gonzalez, from TT’s Human Resources department, noted that the Corporate Challenge has the full support of the firm’s senior management.
“The Corporate Challenge has been an important part of our Philanthropy program here at Trading Technologies for several years,” Gonzalez said. “We appreciate the fact that the race is well organized and provides a great outlet for our employees both as an athletic challenge and also as a great way to give back to the community. Every year senior management allocates a generous budget for us to host a catered post-race party at our company tent.”
The community give back Gonzalez references specifically referred to this year's two beneficiaries — the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and Chicago Run. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a donation to both organizations to honor the Corporate Challenge participants.
With the Chicago skyline and blue skies behind them, members of Marketing Werks gather for a group photo.
Blue Cross Blue Shield had the largest participating team with 615 entrants. CDW was second with 390, followed by General Electric (278); Caterpillar (259); DePaul University (220); Citadel LLC (217); Northern Trust (211) and Jones Lang LaSalle (183).
“The JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge is a great way for CDW to encourage camaraderie and to provide an opportunity to coworkers to achieve their personal wellness goals,” said CDW company captain Kelli Colosi. “We hosted a BBQ dinner complete with music and camaraderie. And, we provide transportation to and from the event to encourage additional companionship en route to the race. We feel it’s important to bring coworkers across several locations together as one team. Coworkers enjoy catching up with old friends and making new ones.”
The creative leaders on this night were AMLI Residential and Harbor Capital Advisors. They were judged to have the best company t-shirts by popular vote at www.facebook.com/chicagocorporatechallenge. Each will receive a $1,000 donation to designate to a charity of their choice.
The Corporate Challenge traditionally brings together employees from all levels of a company, a point that is most gratifying to Caterpillar company captain Karen Scheffler.
“It’s amazing the social networking that takes place at this event,” Scheffler said. “Even with the horrible weather conditions last year we had almost 100-percent of the team participate. We feel the great turnout was largely due to the networking and social opportunity — not just the race itself. This event brings together employees from our shop floor, office, and upper management …and from several facilities. Many have commented that it’s more than just a race.”
The 36th year of JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series continues on Thursday, May 31 with the running of the 22nd annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Rochester.
Forsythe Technology enjoys a pre-race moment amid the beauty of Grant Park.