While the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has caused the postponement or outright cancellation of countless local events, SCARC officials were determined not to let the annual Gordon Shelton Memorial Walk-a-thon suffer the same fate.


“We are happy to say the event is not canceled...we're just doing it differently,” read a statement on the walk's website.


Rather than its usual home at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, the 18th annual event will be held virtually on Sunday, May 17. On that date, participants are invited to hop on the treadmill or head outside to the streets or nearby trails to benefit SCARC, a non-profit organization that serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Festivities will get underway at noon with a Facebook Live video on SCARC’s page, during which the public will be asked to post photos and short videos of their walks to be added to the organization’s social media post. Unlike in years past, when attendees would all walk the same route around the fairgrounds property, there is no minimum or maximum distance participants will be asked to walk.


“We’re just asking them to do whatever they’re capable of doing,” said Chris Hemmer, chief development officer for the SCARC Foundation. “It’s just a fun way to kind of build the virtual community since we can’t all be together.”


Adding to the fun, SCARC will award prizes for best virtual team photo, most creative sign, best motivational photo and most scenic walk route. The winners of each category will be announced the day after the walk.


The annual walk-a-thon raises money for various recreation programs, respite care and guardianship services for individuals and families associated with SCARC. This year, additional funds will help cover expenses for face masks, hand sanitizer and other products purchased to help slow the spread of coronavirus.


Hemmer said he is hoping the virtual walk-a-thon will at least come close to the support it has received each of the last two years, when roughly 650 people took part and helped raise between $120,000 and $135,000 for SCARC programs. As of Monday afternoon, donations for this year’s event had exceeded $81,500, good for 60% of the $135,000 goal.


“I’m not exactly sure what to expect as far as fundraising,” Hemmer said. “We’ve got a lot of loyal supporters, but to put a ballpark number, I’m not sure.”


Regardless of the final total, Hemmer and the rest of the SCARC team are excited to foster an element of fun in the Sussex County area during an uncertain time.


“What I’m looking forward to is just seeing some smiling faces, even if it is virtual, on May 17,” Hemmer said.


For more information on the Gordon Shelton Memorial Walk-a-thon, or to sign up to participate and/or donate, go to bit.ly/2020SCARCWalk.