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Due to leadership from Rick Amundson of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield and Livonia Central School District's Robbin Carll, the Finger Lakes Area School Districts registered a whopping 650 participants for this year's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester.

Rochester's 25th year
underscores community feel

Corning had both individual champions at the 2015 Corporate Challenge. Morgan Burrows won her fourth title and David Bronfenbrenner his first.

ROCHESTER, May 26, 2015 — One of the unique characteristics of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series is that it is truly an all-inclusive event. It welcomes fast racers along with walkers; multi-national companies side-by-side with entrepreneurial shops. And each of the 13 cities on five continents in the worldwide Series has its own identity.

In Rochester, New York - a city 335 miles northwest from New York City with approximately 220,000 residents within its boundaries and 1.1 million in the metropolitan area - it is all about community. Most of the larger companies that take part are headquartered in the area, and there is a heavy influence of local retailers and school districts.

And that brings us to one of the neat stories from the 2015 race, which was the 25th annual in Rochester, featuring a great crowd of 10,371 runners and walkers from 421 companies on a balmy evening at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Rick Amundson, a health and wellness consultant for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, provides counsel to the Finger Lakes Area School Health Plan (FLASHP). He meets quarterly with the wellness coordinators at the 36 school districts in the Finger Lakes Region to trade ideas and best practices.

"We met last June," said Amundson, "and the idea came up of the school districts coming together to enter the Corporate Challenge. Everyone thought it was a great idea."

Flash forward 11 months and Amundson and the Finger Lakes schools brought a whopping 650 teachers, administrators, staff assistants and others to the Corporate Challenge. Twenty-six of the 36 school districts in the Finger Lakes were represented, representing six different counties.

"I don't know what Rick did," admired Corporate Challenge race director Jane Iaculli. "But he was the reason why we topped 10,000 in overall attendance this year."

"To have 650 people participating in this event is beyond my wildest dreams," said Amundson. "The 26 FLASHP school districts here tonight are true leaders in promoting and supporting employee health and wellness. The Wellness Coordinators and Team Captains in each district are to be commended for this truly amazing turnout."

Livonia Central School District had the largest turnout from the Finger Lakes contingent, with 72 total entrants.

"I am really impressed with our showing this year," said Livonia company captain Robbin Carll. "The camaraderie and positive energy of this event is what working at Livonia is all about."

The 10 companies with the largest number of participants are all staples of the area business landscape: Wegmans Food Markets led the way with 543 total entrants followed by University of Rochester (481), Paychex (437), Tops Friendly Markets (196), Rochester Regional Health System (171), Exelis (142), Rochester Institute of Technology (137), ESL Federal Credit Union (127), Harris Corporation (124) and Garlock Sealing Technologies (101).

"Rick Simmonds and Fred Rosen, our owners, cover the expense of the race for all participants," said Pamela McGinnis, company captain of WorldWide Electric, another Rochester-based company with global strength. "With the two owners participating, that is a huge incentive to encourage others to participate. We have sales people, operations professionals, and administrative assistants all participating. Even our "summer" help has come out with us! Although we all agree that it is the longest 3.5 miles ever, we would never miss it."

And while the event does serve the greater business community, the top runners also dig it, maybe none more than those from Corning, the glass geniuses 100 miles south of Rochester.

The individual winners were both from Corning - David Bronfenbrenner in the men's division (18:23) and Morgan Burrows in the women's division (19:59). It was the third consecutive victory here for Burrows, and her fourth Corporate Challenge title overall. It was Bronfenbrenner's first crown after near misses in 2009 (5th), 2012 (2nd) and last year (3rd).

The beneficiary of the evening was Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester. The not-for-profit organization used the occasion to launch its "100 Mentors in 100 Days" campaign with the theme "One Mentor. One Child. A friendship that changes a life." The campaign will support Big Brothers Big Sisters in bringing in new mentors to match children on the waiting list with the goal of sending 100 children back to school in the fall with a mentor.

Big Brothers Big Sisters will also receive a $1,000 donation each from APD Engineering and Architecture and Popli Design Group, the winners of the creative t-shirt contest.

A crowd of 10,371 runners and walkers from 421 companies starts Rochester's 25th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge at RIT.

"Every year, it's cool to see the people you know wearing their company shirt," said Kim Stewart of Finger Lakes Technologies Group. "It's a sense of pride to wear your company shirt at an event like this. People are proud of where they work and to be at such a great event."

The t-shirt helps get companies attention. But Stewart also says the old-fashioned approach works sometimes too.

"Our team members often try to get the announcers to say our name at the starting line," she smiled. "They will be together, make noise, and just do whatever they can to get announced. We post pictures across social media and share them with our employees to encourage people to participate year after year. Last year, two of our runners made it into a picture on the local newspaper website, that's awesome to see."

It's all about community. And that's why Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks were in attendance, sending off the runners from the RIT start stage with prideful comments about how their participation in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge was making a difference for themselves, their companies, and yes, the Greater Rochester community.

Next week it is doubleheader time on the 2015 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series as back-to-back events will be held in New York's Central Park on Wednesday, June 3 and Thursday, June 4. A sold-out crowd of 30,000 entrants will race over the two nights.

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