At VCU Broad Street Mile, 'a great way to build connections'

Annual street festival on Sept. 24 allows participants to support local charities by running in a 5K or several 1-mile fun runs.

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Running is part of Joseph DiPiro’s morning routine. The dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy is typically on the road around 6 a.m., logging his daily miles — 4-5 on weekdays, 8-10 on the weekends.

DiPiro tries to run five days a week as part of his fitness regimen. But he also sees running as a way to build community.

“I’m really impressed by the social nature of running,” DiPiro said. “If we make a commitment to meet up on a Saturday morning, then that’s always going to be a higher-quality run. We’ll run maybe a little bit faster, a little bit farther. And you have more time to talk to people — when do you get an hour just to explore the world’s issues these days?

“It covers a lot of ground — the social, the health, the physical part of it.”

DiPiro is one of 577 runners already signed up for the Sept. 24 VCU Broad Street Mile — the annual fall street festival and road race held on the Monroe Park Campus. The run this year is part of a series of events launching the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, a comprehensive fundraising campaign with three priorities — people, innovations and environments. The campaign aims to touch every aspect of VCU: students, alumni, faculty and staff, patients, caregivers, researchers, schools, libraries, centers and institutes, athletics, and the community.

‘Beat the dean’

Dean Joseph DiPiro.
Dean Joseph DiPiro.

DiPiro is bringing his social philosophy to the race this year by issuing a “beat the dean” philanthropic challenge to pharmacy school students, faculty and staff participating in the 5K run. All proceeds from DiPiro’s challenge support the School of Pharmacy scholarship fund. 

“It’s pretty simple: If I beat them they have to put up $5; if they beat me I have to put up $10,” DiPiro said.

The challenge is an initiative of the school’s Student Philanthropists Alumni Network, a new group formed to raise awareness of philanthropy among current pharmacy students. The school awarded $623,650 in scholarships to 183 students during the last fiscal year.

The Broad Street Mile, now in its fourth year, doubles as a fundraiser for local organizations. VCU announced in July that, in an effort to expand community impact, this year’s event does not require participating groups to have a 501(c)3 designation. Several university offices and schools, including the Grace E. Harris Leadership InstituteVCU ASPiRE and the School of Pharmacy, are participating as fundraising organizations in the Broad Street Mile for the first time as a result of this change.

“When we saw it was an option to participate we thought it would be a great way for us to connect with our alumni and the community,” said Nakeina E. Douglas-Glenn, director of the Harris Institute. “It provides units within the university the opportunity to showcase the work they do.”

The event is an ideal setting to raise awareness, Douglas-Glenn said. The Harris Institute is promoting its four leadership programs, especially the two that are based outside VCU, which focus on women in leadership and leadership in minority communities

“It allows us all to come together and be a part of the community — the VCU community, the Richmond community,” Douglas-Glenn said. “People can engage with the university in a different way.”

Bringing people together

Broad Street Mile participants compete in a series of 1-mile fun runs or the 5K and raise money for local organizations. Runners and walkers designate which organization benefits from their entry fee during registration.

Seventy-six organizations will participate in this year’s event, which takes place on Broad Street between Belvidere Street and Hermitage Road from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the new participating organizations for 2016 is Nurture, a nonprofit organization that provides educational programming to improve the health and wellbeing of childbearing families through fitness, education, social support and community engagement. 

“We were already planning a 10-day social media fundraising campaign starting September 21 and this is right in the middle of that,” said Leslie Lytle, Nurture’s founder and executive director. “So this is a perfect vehicle to raise awareness of our mission and goals.”

Events like the Broad Street Mile bring people together in a way that promotes fitness, said Lytle, a double graduate of VCU.

“It’s a walking and talking event and a great way to build connections,” she said.

DiPiro agrees. When he was at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, he organized large groups — upwards of 100 students — for the annual Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, and then had the runners over to his home for a cookout.

Now he is using running to build connections in another way.

“Building enthusiasm and raising the visibility of the campaign within our pharmacy community is the ultimate goal,” DiPiro said of the pharmacy challenge. “And all these other things come together — fitness, social, health, and philanthropy and the VCU campaign.”

DiPiro is looking forward to the event. And he will have a second challenge that day: His son, Matthew, will be visiting from Atlanta and is running the 5K.

“I’ve got to beat him,” DiPiro laughed. “He’s 35, so that’s going to be a little bit tougher.”


Broad Street Mile

When: Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Broad Street between Belvidere Street and Hermitage Road


Run/walk schedule

VCU 5K. Start time: 10:10 a.m.

Spirit of Giving Mile. Start time: 11:10 a.m.

Kids Mile. Start time: 11:20 a.m.

No Limits Mile. Start time: 11:30 a.m.

Doggy Dash. Start time: 11:40 a.m.

Details for all races:

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