Participants race down the Sidney Lanier Bridge during a previous Southeast Georgia Health System Bridge Run.

Few things are more exhilarating than watching the sunrise from the span of the Sidney Lanier Bridge. Knowing you reached that summit 480 feet above the Brunswick River by your own foot power just adds to the thrill. To achieve that while contributing to a good cause is what keeps Bridge Run participants coming back every year, for 18 years. “Last year, more than 2,300 people participated. This year, we anticipate even more,” said Krista Robitz, director for the Southeast Georgia Health System Foundation.

Renowned among both professional and recreational runners, the event draws participants from across the country. Certified by the U.S. Track and Field Association as “the toughest 5K in Georgia,” the course challenges experienced runners, while being manageable for fit walkers. The Sidney Lanier Bridge is 7,780-feet long.

The race takes place Saturday, February 15, 7 a.m. – noon, with gates opening at 6 a.m. A pre-race pasta party and vendor expo happens Friday, February 14, from 5-8 p.m. at the foot of the bridge. Vendors representing a variety of local businesses will exhibit both days.

A New Challenge

This year’s event includes a new challenge. In addition to the runners and walkers 5K, and the First Responders Challenge, experienced runners can attempt the intense 10K Double Pump. Those participants will cross the 7,780-foot long bridge a total of four times.

Medals and cash awards of $1,000, $500 and $250 will be presented to male and female winners achieving first, second or third place. All participants receive a Bridge Run badge. The oldest runner in any category receives the Frankenthaler Award, presented by Stan Frankenthaler, in honor of his father Bud, a beloved local athlete. The Frankenthaler family will also present a Youngest Runner award. This individual will also receive a new pair of running shoes from Georgia Game Changers located in Richmond Hill.

The Bridge to Better Care

The Bridge Run generates excitement among participants and spectators, while helping people with cancer or heart disease. “The 2019 Bridge Run raised $26,491 toward renovating the Cancer Care Center lobby and waiting area and $21,509 for new treadmills in the Cardiac Care Center Pulmonary Rehabilitation Gym,” Robitz said. “Patients and families spend a good deal of time in the Cancer Care Center. They deserve a healing, soothing environment,” Robitz added.

At the Cardiac Pulmonary Rehabilitation gym, heart patients make good use of the treadmills in their quest to overcome life-threatening conditions. “Anything we can do to improve our patients’ quality of life is important. Donations and fundraisers help subsidize improvements, technology and equipment that the Health System’s annual budget does not cover. As our community grows, demand for health care services grow. Not-for-profit health systems like ours do not turn anyone away, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2019, we provided over $100 million of uncompensated care,” Robitz said.

It Takes a Village

The Bridge Run improves the lives of those coping with cancer and heart disease, but it takes a village to make it happen. “The financial foundation of this event is the sponsors who stay with us year after year. Support at any level helps, whether it’s a $250 Bronze Sponsorship, the $5,000 Award Sponsorship from Pinova, a subsidiary of DRT, or, for the past two years, Robins & Morton’s $10,000 Presenting Sponsorship,” said Bryan Thompson, development coordinator at Nunnally House. The Nunnally House provides free lodging for cancer patients undergoing treatment. “Sponsorships help cover the cost of event security and infrastructure, as well as Pasta Party expenses. Remaining proceeds support the cancer and cardiac care programs.”

The community helps in other ways, too. “Many local businesses provide in-kind support. Sunbelt Rentals donates light towers, Waste Management provides trash bins, Fairfield Inn & Suites and Embassy Suites donate rooms for First Responders, and The Brunswick News helps us spread the word. So many people work and contribute behind the scenes to make the Bridge Run successful,” Thompson said.

Volunteers keep things running smoothly throughout the two-day event. “It takes about 200 volunteers to pull off the event. We need volunteers Friday and Saturday. People can call 912-466-3360 to learn how to get involved,” Robitz said.

A Family Affair

The Bridge Run is fun even if you’re not running or walking. “Families enjoy visiting the 40-50 vendor displays, attending the pasta party, listening to the band and watching the race. Because it’s held over President’s Day weekend, many people stay over on Monday to enjoy the Golden Isles,” said Robitz.

Last year, over 3,000 people attended, in addition to runners and walkers. For vendors, that equates to excellent exposure. “This one event presents two opportunities, Friday and Saturday, to showcase their businesses,” Robitz said.

Event Logistics

The event schedule is as follows: Gates open 6 a.m. Saturday; 10K Double Pump 7 a.m.; First Responders 8:30 a.m.; 5K Run 9:30; 5K Walk 10:30 a.m.; awards ceremony 11 a.m. Free parking is available. Heavy traffic is expected; participants should arrive early to avoid delays.

Event registration is available online at sghs.org or active.com or by calling 800-537-5142, extension 2786. Runner registration ends midnight, February 11. There is no day-of-event runner registration; however, walkers may register on event day.

Adult registration fees are: 10K Double Pump: $50 before January 31, $60 after January 31; 5K Run/Walk $30 before January 31, $40 after January 31; 5K Run/Walk teams of 10 or more: $28 before January 31, $38 after January 31.

Youth registration fees: 10K Double Pump: $40; 5K Run: $20; 5K Walk: $15; 5K Run/Walk teams of 10 or more: $15.

All participants receive a dri-fit shirt. Runners also receive a timing chip and race bib, which can be picked up at 7 a.m. on race day or at the pre-race pasta party the night before. Anyone may attend the Pasta Party. Pasta Party tickets are $5 in advance and $7 the day of the event.

For more information about sponsorship, vendor or volunteer opportunities, please call 912-466-3360. If you can’t attend the event, but want to improve the lives of patients with a financial donation, please call 912-466-3360.

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