Runners compete for treats at Cocoa Classic 5K event

Students+from+Alpha+Omega+Epsilon+are+bundled+up+in+the+cold+weather+to+help+at+the+Milwaukee+Cocoa+Classic+5K+event.

Photo by Photo courtesy of Alpha Omega Epsilon

Students from Alpha Omega Epsilon are bundled up in the cold weather to help at the Milwaukee Cocoa Classic 5K event.

Nearly 600 Milwaukee residents made their way to South Shore Drive in freezing weather Feb. 15 to participate in the Milwaukee Cocoa Classic.

The Milwaukee Cocoa Classic is an annual 5K walk/run that treats its participants to hot chocolate and Rice Krispie treats at the end of the race. In addition to snacks, all racers are given a “finisher mug” and a long-sleeve commemorative T-shirt.

For some, however, the finish-line incentives were not the only reason they attended. While the race itself officially began at 8:15 a.m., dozens of gritty volunteers showed up at 6:45 a.m. in the 16-degree weather to help with the set-up process. 

Among these volunteers were 10 members of Marquette University’s Alpha Omega Epsilon sorority. They arrived bright and early to the event to assist with preparations. 

Despite unpleasant conditions, Kelsey Hughes, a sophomore in the College of Engineering who is in charge of AOE’s philanthropy committee, said she feels that volunteering at this sort of event is always worth it. AOE was the only official Marquette-affiliated group at the run.

“I think (our sorority) always liked doing these events just because they’re fun, and we get to meet people from other organizations,” Hughes said. “It’s always fun to get involved in the community.”

Hughes is not the only one in her sorority who shares this attitude. Emma Claire Kinnison, a junior in the College of Engineering and the former head of AOE’s philanthropy committee, said she has experience in coordinating volunteer work for this kind of event.

Kinnison said her favorite parts of volunteering at events are not just “being there in the community, but also being there with a bunch of my sisters and getting to connect and bond with them more.”

While the race itself may be a fun community-building experience, Koloszy said an event like the Milwaukee Cocoa Classic takes anywhere from three to six months to plan. The race itself is largely facilitated by volunteers.

Kinnison also said AOE has previously worked with All Community Events, the organization that hosted the Cocoa Classic. ACE is a nationwide organization that hosts races throughout the Midwest and East Coast.

According to its website, the mission is to strengthen local communities and promote personal health and fitness.

In an effort to achieve this mission, Mark Koloszy, event director for ACE, said all of the races the organization hosts double as a fundraiser.

“We work with local charities in each city, so it’s a win-win for everybody,” Koloszy said.

This year the Milwaukee Cocoa Classic chose to sponsor Eastern Wisconsin Ronald McDonald House Charities, which support families with children who are hospitalized or are receiving medical care. The Milwaukee Cocoa Classic promoted the Milwaukee branch of this major charity.

However, Koloszy said the fundraising itself is not the best part of these events. He said his favorite part is “seeing the runners and walkers as they finish, the smiles on their faces, making it a memorable experience.” He also said he enjoys the awards ceremony.

At the end of the Milwaukee Cocoa Classic, a winner medal is awarded to the top three fastest racers in each age group. With 13 different age groups, there are up to 39 winner medals presented to participants at the end of the race.

Despite the bitterly cold weather and the time consuming planning process, Koloszy made no complaints. “This is the best part of the job, just being out here, doing the work, having people help and set up, volunteers coming together and making it a great event for runners and walkers,” Koloszy said.

This story was written by Charlotte Ives. She can be reached at charlotte.ives@marquette.edu.