According to event chairman Jackie Hangley a record 1,430 hikers tackled the rugged 4-mile hike through thick woods, over rocky terrain, and up and down step inclines. The event raised $47, 898, also a record. There were 100 volunteers, working in shifts, positioned around the farm. According to Hangley, about 50 volunteers also hiked the trail.
For the first time in her seven-year tenure as chairman, everyone who started the hike finished the hike, said Hangley. Most hikers, she said, spent two to three hours on the trail. This year the average age on the trail was 29.
There is no cost to participants. The Hudson Farm Club donates $1 per year of age of each participant. At the end of their hike, each hiker is given play money that corresponds to their age. The participant then drops the play money into a box designated to one of the five charities. This years charities included the Hopatcong Fire Department, C.E.R.T., Hopatcong PBA 149, Hopatcong’s Parent Teacher Organization, and Hopatcong’s Youth Sport Organizations. Each organization is required to provide the volunteers.
For Anne and Bill Holl, from Randolph, Saturday’s hike was just another walk in the park. Both 78 years old and “very active,” they came to the event to “gladly support” their great-grandson, 13-year-old Brandon Sexton, who plays youth sports in Hopatcong. Using walking sticks to help them navigate the rocky trails, both Anne and Bill maintained a brisk pace, keeping up with a crowd of hikers more than half their age that were on the trail near them.
“It’s fun to be out here,” said Anne.
Charity hikes at Hudson Farm began in the mid 2000s when some people from Byram Township approached Hudson Farm and proposed a hike as a fundraiser. Hopatcong followed a year later with their version. Since then, it has blossomed from about 300-400 hikers in the first two years to what it is today, an event that draws over 1,500 participants.
First-time hiker Allie Aselta, 9, from Hopatcong, was all smiles as she and her father, John, 50, waited in line to collect their play money.
“I was tired,” said Allie leaning on her hiking stick.
To keep track of all the people, hikers and volunteers are given a number and must register before heading out on the trail and then again at the finish. Along the route there are four checkpoints where volunteers record the number of each hiker passing through.
Hangley modestly credits all the volunteers and the people from Hudson Farm for making this event so successful.
“She’s being very modest,” said Hangley’s husband, Mike. “She puts in countless hours behind the scenes both at home and at the farm. She is really the brains behind the operation,” he said of his wife, who said she would be back again next year as event chairman.