Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. James Williams talks with company captain Erin Comerford (center) and another employee before the race.Under Comerford's leadership, Buffalo Public Schools had the largest team at this year's Chase Corporate Challenge in Buffalo - 476 participants.
Public recognition: Buffalo Schools
lead way at 31st Corporate Challenge
Amanda Steimach gives a thumbs up in the corporate tent of Try-It Distributing Co., Inc. Despite threathening forecasts, it was an ideal day for the 31st Chase Corpoate Challenge in Buffalo. Ken Huth photos.
BUFFALO, June 9, 2011 — It has been a tumultuous time for the Buffalo Public Schools. Budget and personnel shifts have often created uncertainty in the workforce.
“We definitely had a need,” said Erin Comerford, an Executive Administrator, “for some good news and a good time.”
So Comerford took matters into her own hands. She signed up two years ago to become the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) company captain for the Chase Corporate Challenge and, with the help of an enthusiastic committee, immediately reached out to the 60 buildings within the school system.
The results have been spectacular, as witnessed at tonight’s 31st annual Chase Corporate Challenge, held under idyllic conditions in Delaware Park.
“We provided fleeces to the first 200 who signed up last year,” Comerford said, explaining how she was able to grow BPS participation from a small handful to 342 strong. “That created a buzz through the buildings, and I was surprised that we were almost the biggest outfit in the race.”
Indeed. BPS tallied the second-most entries, trailing only the 626 registered by Kaleida Health.
“So this year,” Comerford said, “we really decided to go for it.”
Aggressively recruiting and pushing Buffalo Public Schools pride all the way — along with the lure of a post-race Chicken BBQ — Comerford and her committee attracted 476 participants this year and edged Kaleida for the Largest Participation Award.
The amazing effort attracted the attention of Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. James Williams, who attended the race to salute his colleagues.
“Most of our participants are teachers, but we also have a good amount of administrators and other workers,” Comerford said. “This has been a wonderful way to raise morale. It’s a great place to meet; the way I describe it, it’s like a really cool tailgate party at a big college or pro football game.”
And, with the Buffalo classes ending on June 24, the perfect way to toast another successful school year.
Dan Giza of Moog breaks the tape to win the men's title in 17:30 at the 2011 Chase Corporate Challenge in Buffalo. In the right photo, Sandy Wolcott (left) and Bob Ryan of Chase congratulate women's winner Maura Frauehofer of Catholic Health.
Not that the Buffalo Public Schools held a monopoly on the participation. More than two dozen companies from throughout Western New York entered 100 or more of their employees, including: Kaleida (449); Tops Friendly Markets (410, more than tripling the 127 it registered in 2010); HSBC (247, up from 190); Moog (238, up from 194); Catholic Health (228); University at Buffalo (215, up from 178); M&T Bank (208); Wegmans (189); and Seneca Gaming (186, up from 151).
The total attendance count at Buffalo’s largest road was 11,619 entrants from 389 companies. That represented a 15-percent surge in the 9,990 that gathered in 2009 and proved that this race — now in its fourth decade — shows no signs of slowing down.
The big crowd couldn’t have asked for better weather. Despite ominous forecasts earlier in the day, temperatures were in the high 70’s with a calming breeze and plenty of sun.
Dan Giza of Moog certainly found the conditions to his liking, racing to the men’s title in 17:30, a full 40 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Todd Witzleben of the University at Buffalo. David Keenan of M&T Bank was third in 18:22. Defending champion Chris Muldoon of Crowley Webb was sidelined with blood clots in his lung and predicted Giza’s victory in a pre-race feature story by Budd Bailey of the Buffalo News.
The 2010 women’s champion Maura Frauehofer of Catholic Health returned to successfully defend her crown, clocking a 20:15 to fend off Jennifer Acker of Amherst Central Schools (20:51). Mary Veith, representing the Orchard Park Schools, was third in 20:55.
The runners were sent off the starting line and greeted at the finish by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Chris Collins, who have made the Corporate Challenge an annual must-attend on their calendar.
“Is there a better way to start the summer?” asked Mayor Brown.
What gives Buffalo a unique identity among all races in the worldwide Corporate Challenge Series is the diverse types of companies that come out. No one industry group stands above and beyond others in terms of participation, as displayed by companies such as NOCO Energy, Unifrax, Upstate Niagara, O-AT-KA Milk, Greatbatch, Wilson Farms, AP Professionals, Rich Products, Astronics, Rosina Foods, Try-It Distributing, and Ecology & Environment — all of whom had a presence on the Amherst Street starting line.
Allison Carr of New York State OPWDD (7869) bolts from the start of the Chase Corporate Challenge in Buffalo. Carr would finish in 21:11, the 4th fastest woman.
And the hard work by the company captains — for organizations big and small — was worth it from the community aspect. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation, in honor of Corporate Challenge participants, made a donation to Child Care Resource Network, a not-for-profit Child Care Resource and Referral Agency committed to the development of affordable quality early care and education for children in Erie County. Its range of services include: helping families find child care; training, consulting and finding resources for child care providers; and assisting business and community planners.
The donation to Child Care Resource Network — represented at the event by Executive Director Susan Block — was done in partnership with Winning Beginning NY, a statewide early childhood education coalition.
The donation resonated, as Child Care Resource Network was referenced on many of the specially-made t-shirts that the teams wore as their race uniforms on the evening. The public — in online voting at www.facebook.com/buffalocorporatechallenge — judged Merchants Insurance Group and Time Warner Cable to have the most creative t-shirts. Both of those companies will receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
The 35th year of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge continues on Wednesday, June 15 with a unique doubleheader. The 19th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt, Germany will flag off at 1:30 p.m. (New York time), followed by the 35th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in New York’s Central Park at 7 p.m.
(For comments on JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series features, or suggestions for feature stories, please contact Alan Tieuli at firstname.lastname@example.org)