Rome native uses running to raise money and awareness for hungry

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A Rome native is running a 1,000K to raise money and awareness for those who go hungry throughout central New York and to give local businesses a leg up.

Amber Howland, who now lives in Syracuse, is running the OneNY 1,000K virtual challenge — which equates to 621 miles — over a 108-day period for the Food Bank of CNY.

“This averages to about 6-7 miles a day, and 44 miles a week,” said Howland. “There are over 15,000 participants in this challenge from all over New York, and even some out-of-state, but have ties to New York. I, however, decided to take this challenge to the next level by partnering with local small businesses to showcase how they are finding success during this crazy time.”

To use the virtual challenge as a means to also support struggling small businesses during the pandemic, Howland runs in the neighborhoods of sponsored shops, eateries and services, helps advertise who they are on social media and highlights any updated hours or curbside pickup options they may have.

“So far I have run over 150 miles, showcased more than 20 local businesses on social media and raised over $3,000,” Howland said. “We are only four weeks into the 15-week challenge, and I have several businesses in Syracuse, Utica and Rome on deck for the remaining weeks.”

She said, “During these uncertain times, we are left wondering how we can help. While not everyone has the means to make an immediate impact on our community’s small businesses and end hunger, each one of us can do something small. Small acts add up, and enough small acts can leave a huge lasting mark on our community. Each day I will be logging miles with a sponsor from a local business. I will be representing them by sporting their swag whether it be a shirt, or a hat. While highlighting local small businesses, I hope to support our local community and contribute to help end hunger locally.”

Just $1 can provide up to three meals to local families, children and the elderly, according to the OneNY running challenge.

On Father’s Day this Sunday, Howland will be racing around Buried Acorn Brewery in Syracuse. Farm to Fork 101 and Eden Restaurant are teaming up on the Buried Acorn patio from 2-7 p.m. to offer farm fresh burgers courtesy of Chef Rich Strub, served curbside and cooked over an open flame. The brewery announced that $1 of every burger and $1 of every Hot Whip IPA beer sold will go to the Food Bank of Central New York as part of Howland’s 1,000K campaign.

Other businesses sponsored by Howland have included Cantina Loredo, Salt City Coffee, Coleman’s Irish Pub, Epicuse, the Fish Friar and Skaneateles Bakery.

Howland grew up in Rome, graduating from Rome Free Academy in 2002, having spent her high school days competing in basketball and swimming. She went on to attend college at SUNY Brockport and after graduating, spent several years moving around the U.S. and even abroad, before resettling in central New York three years ago.

So why run 1,000K to help end hunger locally?

According to Howland’s blog — a link located on her website, www.amberhowland.com — she’s been asked that very question a lot lately.

“During every run, this question crossed my mind. I would task myself during the run to come up with an eloquent answer that would leave everyone happy and content,” the runner reflected. “Yes, I am doing this for the Food Bank of CNY. Yes, I am doing this to showcase small businesses in CNY. If I am being honest, though, my reason for doing this started with the dreaded word, ‘quarantine.’”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak forced shutdowns and social-distancing requirements nationwide back in March, Howland said she has been in quarantine alone. So the 1,000K virtual challenge has given her “purpose,” motivation and something to look forward to doing, while remaining active.

“For eight weeks, I longed for purpose. I am fortunate enough that my job allows me to work from home so it is really business as usual for me, with the exception of being told that I can’t leave my house or see my favorite people,” she wrote. “For eight weeks, I let this get the best of me. I struggled. I tried to maintain normalcy. I went through all the stages of quarantine — the baking stage, the YouTube workout stage, the deep cleaning stage, the painting rooms stage, the do absolutely nothing and mope stage...For eight weeks, I was in a mindset that this awful thing was happening to me. This is where the OneNY 1,000K Virtual Challenge stepped in.”

Howland said she heard of the virtual race through friends who had signed up. She admitted that she took the miles, time investment and overall commitment into serious consideration, but a final push of a friend who sent her a promo code she could use to register for the event, was all she needed in the end.

It was while sitting at the kitchen table, while visiting with her sister, that Howland said she got the idea to partner with local small businesses to help showcase them through this difficult time.

“We quickly got to brainstorming and made a list of our favorite eateries, bars and establishments around town. That evening, I called a close friend that I knew would not talk me out of this and I said, ‘I have an idea, and I need to talk through this,’” she said. “This is where the virtual fund-raiser for the food bank was born. Ideas were flowing — big and small. My first call the next morning was the Food Bank of CNY. I had a big idea and two days to execute.”

With the assistance of Lynn Hy, the chief development officer at the Food Bank of CNY, Howland said she was able to fast-track a dedicated donation landing page and provided her first piece of running swag — a Food Bank T-shirt.

“Constant calls, texts, figuring out a website, more calls and texts took a dining room table idea to an executed movement that I can only hope will leave a mark on our towns,” Howland said.

Howland’s posts and story appear on both Instagram (@ambermhowland) and Facebook (Amber Howland). To make a donation, visit her website at www.amberhowland.com.

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