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About 8,000 register for 2013 Big Chill

Participants ranging from 6 to 60 years of age joined the massive throng of runners gathered in front of the College Avenue Gymnasium yesterday morning for the 11th annual “Big Chill,” the second-largest race in New Jersey that aims to benefit children during the holiday season.

Anne Finetto, race manager for the “Big Chill,” said approximately 8,000 people registered to run in the race this year, with 10,000 gifts being donated and an estimated $100,000 being raised in total from sponsorships.

“The biggest person that gets this is New Brunswick Housing, and they have a big event where they donate all the toys to the kids,” she said. “The extras circle to extra charities, like the Salvation Army and Red Cross [as well as] Franklin Township and Piscataway.”

Finetto said she has actively been involved with the race for 11 years and helped design the original running course.

“It was just going out there and trying to find something that crossed through the Rutgers campus that covered three miles,” she said. “But you really want something that gets as much out of Rutgers as you can.”

Amy Denholtz, Rutgers alumna, said this was her first time participating in the “Big Chill.”

“I had friends running the race and I wanted to run this race for two years and I wasn’t able to, so this was my chance,” she said.

Denholtz, a member of the Garden State Track Club, said volunteers were cheering and supporting the runners along the way. She appreciated the togetherness that was very evident at the event.

“I really enjoyed the spirit of the run,” she said. “I felt the runners were all excited to be there and that the volunteers were so supportive. Being a part of a community is really exciting when you race.”

Dave Ducoin, another alumnus running the race for the first time, said he also enjoyed the event.

“I thought it was a fun event to run in December,” he said. “The idea of giving gifts to kids instead of making [monetary] donations seemed like a good cause. [Overall], it was a great run. Everyone was really happy and friendly. I liked all the costumes.”

Gabriela Ber, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she has a year of experience with the “Big Chill” and was returning to run for her second time.

“I wanted to do it for work,” she said. “I work at the Rutgers Fitness Center and I wanted to represent and do it for the children on behalf of the state.”

Each year, the race draws in runners from diverse areas across the state, according to its website.

Diane Montecuollo, a The College of New Jersey senior, said she has been attending the “Big Chill” for the past several years.

“Our sorority is doing it as a philanthropy event because we wanted to get involved in a larger group,” she said. “We’ve been doing it for about seven years, and we come back every year for it.”

Finetto said since the race launched 11 years ago its popularity and success has only grown.

“This year we raised coats and we got hats and gloves for kids in need, and we do more and more [each year]. Every year, something gets added on,” she said.

Finetto continues to work with the “Big Chill” each year because it channels a group of people into an atmosphere that emphasizes happiness, generosity and a sense of community in the name of the holiday season, she said.

“I just love the feeling — I love the happy spirit and everybody here,” she said. “Everyone looks happy and looks like they’re enjoying it, and seeing those presents is such a good feeling that makes you really get into the holiday spirit.”

She said for the thousands of individuals that choose to participate, the race is a feel-good event.

“You do it, you love it, you love the feel of it, so you want to do it every year,” Finetto said.

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