Motivation runs deep for participants
in 32nd annual Buffalo Corporate Challenge
Linda Wright (right) of Roswell Cancer Institute with colleague Joann Amigone after completing the Corporate Challenge to honor her brother.
BUFFALO, June 7, 2012 — Approximately 18 years ago, Linda Wright of Roswell Cancer Institute lost her brother, Daniel, in a car accident. In the painful days following, she was going through some of Daniel’s prized possessions and discovered a Corporate Challenge finisher t-shirt.
“Apparently he had run the race the year before,” Wright noted. “I kept the shirt because it reminded me of Daniel and I thought one day I would like to (enter the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge). Every year I would think about it, then not do it, and become sad.”
But this year Wright followed through on her pledge to honor her brother. Her colleague at Roswell Park, Joann Amigone, urged her to enter, promising that she would walk side-by-side with her.
“I mulled it over and on the last day possible signed up,” Wright said. “I started crying I was so proud that I would be doing something (Daniel) did.”
Now that she has walked, Wright has bigger plans. “I plan on running, especially since Fitness 360 is now helping us get into shape.”
Wright was part of the third-largest Buffalo JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in its 32 years — 12,667 runners and walkers from 403 Erie County companies. They competed on a picture-perfect evening (61 degrees, 44% humidity, light breeze) and then headed to more than 300 hospitality tents within beautiful Delaware Park for an evening of barbecues and camaraderie.
“This,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on the starting line, “is one of the best nights in the year in Buffalo, and we are grateful that JPMorgan Chase brings this event back year after year.”
Tops Friendly Markets CEO Frank Curci (left) smiles as he talks with a team member. Tops topped the field in participation with a team of 636 entrants.
One company that has caught Corporate Challenge fever is Tops Friendly Markets, a popular chain of grocery stores. Tops led the way in participation, with a phenomenal turnout of 636 entrants. This is up significantly from 410 in 2011, 127 in 2010 and 97 in 2009. What a growth story.
“We’re very proud of that,” Tops president and CEO Frank Curci told Jim Castor of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “When our company became independent 4 1/2 years ago, it gave us new life. We carved a more locally focused Tops out of that.
“We’re stressing healthy living, improving the health of our employees with things like our walking work challenge and the Corporate Challenge. It’s our mission to have a healthy work place while having some fun and enjoying the camaraderie of getting together as a group.”
Setting a strong leadership example for Tops, Curci entered both the Rochester JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge on May 31 and this race. He says that is indicative of the management culture.
“Five of the six senior executives here are fairly avid runners,” Curci said. “We make it a point to participate in all three of the cities that have Corporate Challenge events in our market — Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse (scheduled for June 19).”
In addition to the throng from Tops, Buffalo Public Schools had another impressive turnout with 396 entrants. Kaleida Health (286), Catholic Health (270), First Niagara Bank (255), Ingram Micro (253), Wegmans (225), Moog (223), University at Buffalo (198) and M&T Bank (192) completed the Top 10.
AND THE WINNERS ARE…
Among the throngs of runners were some superior individual competitors. Vasilis Kariolis of Dopkins & Co. was the first-place finisher in the men’s division with a winning time of 17:51 and Jennifer Koeppel-Acker of Amherst Central School District in the women’s division with a time of 20:35.
Jennifer Koeppel-Acker of Amherst Central School District won the women’s individual title with a time of 20:35 (top photo), while Vasilis Kariolis of Dopkins & Co. broke the tape held by Sandy Wolcott of J.P. Morgan (left in lower photo) and Nancy Blaschak of the Greater Buffalo Chapter of the American Red Cross in the men's race.
Kariolis was a first-time Corporate Challenge champion, besting runner-up Jon French of the University at Buffalo (18:06) and Kevin Smith of Try-It Distributing (18:11).
Koeppel-Acker earned her second title, having broken the tape with her charismatic smile in 2009. She finished 33 seconds ahead of former champion Allison Carr, who was running for the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Mary Giza of Cleveland Biolabs was in 21:14.
There were other competitions within the companies themselves.
“D’Youville has been doing the Corporate Challenge for years,” said Butch Murphy, Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management at D’Youville College. “It brings people together from different areas and departments so it breaks down some artificial barriers and gets people a little more connected.”
A private, independent, Roman Catholic college on Buffalo’s West Side near the International Peace Bridge, D’Youville has been steadily increasing its entries by creating inter-department challenges and other creative touches.
“One of our faculty members came up with an internal competition that rewarded the department with the greatest percentage of their employees participating in the event,” Murphy said.“A trophy was developed and since then it has added a fun competition to the event as well as a lot of humorous trash talk back and forth! We never realized how coveted the award was. The chiropractic department won it the last two years. We also recognize the fastest male and female finishers and even do raffles so slow folks like me can come away with something.”
And the creative-types had their own award. Buffalo State College and Lactalis American were voted to have the best company t-shirt designs at www.facebook.com/buffalocorporatechallenge. Each company will receive a $1,000 donation from JPMorgan Chase to designate to a charity of their choice.
Part of the third-largest Buffalo JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in its 32 years — 12,667 runners and walkers from 403 Erie County companies — gathers in Delaware Park for the 2012 race.
All participants in Buffalo walked away with a feeling of contribution as the JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a donation on behalf of the Corporate Challenge to the American Red Cross of Greater Buffalo. The funds provided will offer relief and peace of mind to working families that endure home fires. This was part of a Corporate Challenge-wide initiative in Upstate New York with the Rochester and Syracuse events also benefiting the local chapters of the Red Cross.
The 36th season of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series continues next week with a pair of spectacularly-popular races — J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenges in New York’s Central Park (June 13-14) and Frankfurt, Germany (June 14). The two events combined will attract more than 100,000 total entrants.
(For comments on JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series features, or suggestions for feature stories, please contact Alan Tieuli at email@example.com)