HOPATCONG – Almost thirteen hundred hikers and volunteers participated in the eighth annual Hopatcong Charity Hike at Hudson Farm, Saturday, raising close to $41, 500 dollars for a variety of borough organizations.
Hikers as old as 84 and as young as nine months enjoyed a warm, sunny morning along the rugged four-mile path on the grounds of Hudson Farm located at the border of Hopatcong and Andover, and skirting the shores of Bear Pond.
The hike is free to participant. Hudson Farm donates $1 per age of each hiker. At the end of the trek, hikers collect ‘funny money’ that equals their age and then distributes it however they want between the six local organizations represented, including borough sports programs, the ambulance squad, the fire departments, the borough PTOs, Local PBA #149, and Project Graduation.
“This is such a generous event sponsored by the Hudson Farm Club,” said event coordinator Jackie Hangley.
Hangley has been the brains and brawn behind this well-oiled machine for seven of its eight years, making sure there is always enough volunteers from each organization represented throughout the day and that hikers stay safe and accounted for.
All hikers are registered and are assigned a number. The first hikers enter the woods at 7:30am and are immediately met by volunteers at the first of five checkpoints along the path, including the last checkpoint at the end of the trail. Christie Motyka and her mother-in-law, Lynn Motyka, were at checkpoint A for the early morning shift, representing the Hawks Soccer Club. Lynn hiked last year but decided to volunteer this year. Also at each checkpoint were volunteers from two local search and rescue clubs, NJ Initial Response Team (NJIRT) and Search & Rescue Team of Warren County. While there was no need for any type of a rescue on Saturday, the teams did keep track of hikers who looked like they were struggling, said NJIRT chief John Gumbs.
For Barbara and Tom Sanders, the first hikers to finish the two-hour trek, a walk in the woods was an easy way to show their support. Between them they raised $113 which they distributed between all six organizations. Barbara is a Hopatcong Middle School special education teacher.
“This was fun. We have beautiful weather and there were beautiful views,” said Barbara as she slipped her ‘funny money’ into boxes representing each organization.
Pack 88 from the borough was one of the largest groups to hike, said Hangley, bringing an enthusiastic mob of 35 scouts and 30 adults, most wearing yellow t-shirts.
For Jeff Guttenberger, 73, a nine-year veteran of the hike, it’s a way to give back, enjoy the outdoors and to socialize with other hikers.
“Today was a huge success,” said Hangley. “God is smiling on us today. We lucked out with the weather.”