The South Asian Circle of Hopkinton is using the power of movement to assist the Hopkinton Emergency Fund through a virtual 5K to be held next month.
This will be the first annual 5K sponsored by the South Asian Circle of Hopkinton (SACH), a nonprofit formed in September 2018. The event will run from Sept. 18-26. Because it is virtual, people can walk or run a route of their choosing outside or even on a treadmill and log their progress. Runners and walkers of all ages are welcome and will receive a “Step it Up for Hopkinton” T-shirt to commemorate the experience.
“We started SACH with the idea of connecting the South Asian community with the larger community of Hopkinton,” communications chair Charusmitha “Smitha” Ram explained. “We also wanted to celebrate our culture and educate everybody in town so they can celebrate with us and spread positive energy.”
The inspiration for the organization had arisen the previous year, when a group of about eight South Asian families came together to celebrate holiday traditions such as Diwali as a larger community. It blossomed as people from the different cultures in the region shared their traditions and common interests, as well as their desire to help others.
“The majority of South Asians in Hopkinton is comprised of Indians,” Ram noted. “But we didn’t want to be just another Indian community. We wanted to be inclusive of all groups, so we have members who are Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Sri Lankans and people from other territories in the subcontinent.
“When I was growing up in India, we didn’t have a lot of exposure to these cultures,” she continued. “It’s awesome to learn about the other regions and cultures. Now we are all together in the same town.”
Since that time, SACH has participated in a number of community events, including diversity mural paintings, Juneteenth, Pride Day and a celebration of Holi, the festival of colors.
“We like to collaborate with other organizations and form a circle of support,” Ram said. “We’ve been trying to spread out our tentacles in different directions to help others.”
The genesis for the 5K fundraiser was a group SACH formed called Step it Up with SACH. President Ruta Upalekar, an avid runner who will participate in the Boston Marathon this fall, came up with the idea to connect with others while exercising. SACH had hoped to start the 5K last year, but COVID-19 thwarted those plans.
“She’s been such an inspiration to us,” Ram said. “We would all count our steps and aim for about 10,000 and post in our WhatsApp group. We also share nutrition information. It was really motivational.”
Starting on July 25, the group also started holding weekly Sunday morning runs where members participate in pre-run stretches and post-exercise yoga.
“For me the best part is that we all bring yoga mats and do our stretching,” Ram said. “I get a burst of energy to start the week.”
Ram also is the communications director for the Hopkinton Emergency Fund, which will be the beneficiary of this year’s effort. The Hopkinton Emergency Fund, a private nonprofit, collaborates with local service organizations to provide emergency relief to Hopkinton residents. The group provides funds to help with costs such as rental assistance, health care and car repairs, expenses that are beyond the scope of other nonprofits. Partners include Hopkinton Youth and Family Services, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Project Just Because and the Hopkinton Senior Center.
“We’ve received a lot of applications for help already,” Ram said, noting that applications get filtered through those groups. “At least three families have been helped by this initiative. They were able to avoid eviction in time to look for a new job and have that continuity to support themselves.”
Ram stressed that while Hopkinton is perceived as a well-off suburb, there are people in need everywhere, particularly in light of the pandemic.
The Hopkinton Emergency Fund will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from the 5K, Ram said, adding that she hopes this effort will make the organization more well known.
Ram also welcomed people to create teams or join the Step it Up social group on Sundays at 8 a.m.. The group usually meets at the Hopkins Elementary School parking lot and sets out on a run from there.
“We also want people to take pictures of themselves during the 5K so we can publicize it and socialize it,” she added.
Participants will be given suggested routes to walk or run throughout Hopkinton as well as information on nutrition and injury prevention tips.
Participants can register for the 5K on the SACH website at southasiancircleofhopkinton.org. For more information about the Hopkinton Emergency Fund, visit hopkintonemergencyfund.org.