Local Runners Raise $2,500 for Women's Shelter at First-ever 30A Trail Half Marathon

The Bear Claw Classic, South Walton's newest trail running event, combined fitness and generosity to restore freedom and dignity to women trafficked into sexual slavery.

SANTA ROSA BEACH, FL, Jun. 11, 2018 — Saturday, June 9th, 42 runners from across the Florida panhandle gathered for the inaugural Bear Claw Classic: a half marathon and 10K trail run through the Point Washington State Forest that raised $2,500 to provide secure housing, vocational training, and counseling to abused women.

Setting out from the Flatwoods Trail Terminus on 30A, the course incorporated rolling single track and sweeping, sandy roads to guide runners through some of northwest Florida’s most beautiful landscapes, including dense pinewood forest, sunny clearings, and beautiful dune lake shoreline.

Healthy living advocate and RUN/SUP founder Tom Losee, who completed the half marathon route, said:

“The Bear Claw Classic was a great way to introduce some of our local trails to the growing trail running community. Right in our own backyard are some of the most scenic running trails in the country. This well-run event gave locals and visitors alike a taste of what our area has to offer. I can’t wait for the next race!"

Following the run's overwhelming success, Fit For Hope® volunteers are already organizing a follow-up event for this fall to raise even more life-changing support for charity.

Founded in the summer of 2016, Fit For Hope has already helped raise over $35,000 for charity by empowering athletes to fundraise while training for and competing in endurance events. First-time Fit For Hope athlete, Jessilyn Brucato, raised over $500 while training to run her first half marathon at the Bear Claw Classic.

After crossing the finish line, Jessilyn had this to say:

“Fundraising with Fit For Hope was an amazing experience. It was so easy to set up a fundraising profile and I felt empowered to focus on what really mattered every time I was training. I am so honored to be a part of the Fit For Hope community where I can truly make a difference by doing what I love."

Active and aspiring athletes from all across the country are following in Jessilyn’s footsteps to raise support for worthy causes that speak to them—like Chris Yanes, an architect and first-time triathlete who raised $1,235 to give permanent housing to a homeless family in need.

And with dedicated Fit For Hope events like the Bear Claw Classic, anyone can make an abiding impact in the lives of hurting people while relishing the incredible beauty of the Emerald Coast, building lasting relationships with other athletes, and enjoying generous contributions from amazing local businesses.

Thanks to Phillip and Madra McDonald and their team at Black Bear Bread Co., runners were treated to gourmet bear claw pastries after crossing the finish line. And, thanks to Amy Wright and The Honey Hutch, the fastest male and female finishers were rewarded with locally-sourced, craft honey for being the first to #outrunthebear.

Fit For Hope Co-founder and Bear Claw Classic Organizer, Jake Vermillion, said:

"We are so incredibly thankful for everyone who made the Bear Claw Classic such an overwhelming success! From those who promoted the run, to our amazing sponsors, to everyone who ran and donated, we are so grateful to have had a hand in bringing the community together to make a lasting impact on the lives of women in need. We can't wait for the next Fit For Hope event this fall!"

Active and aspiring athletes can explore how to leverage their fitness to help others by visiting fitforhope.com, today. To see pictures from the Bear Claw Classic, visit Fit For Hope on Facebook. Get an inside view into organizing a trail half marathon for charity by reading Jake Vermillion's blog post, Organizing a Trail Run for Freedom: A Race Director’s Reflections.