Community teams up to go ‘Miles for Music’

Staff Writer

 Members of the JAMS Choir from John Adams Middle School serenade runners during the Miles for Music race held March 23 at Johnson Park in Highland Park.  PHOTO BY JOSE MANCHOLA Members of the JAMS Choir from John Adams Middle School serenade runners during the Miles for Music race held March 23 at Johnson Park in Highland Park. PHOTO BY JOSE MANCHOLA EDISON — Anne McCarthy, a music teacher at James Madison Intermediate School, is teaching students that if they have a good idea that can benefit others, they should run with it — literally.

The turnout for the third annual Miles for Music race, held March 23 at Johnson Park in Highland Park, underscored that point. More than 1,000 students from 19 schools showed up to raise money for their school music programs.

McCarthy and her fiancé, Joel Simpson, are both members of the Raritan Valley Road Runners. When they found out that the board used to hold a 20K race and wanted to bring it back, the couple stepped up. Since music and running are the Mc- Carthys’ passions, they decided to combine the two.

“I started Miles for Music as a nonprofit organization to help fund music programs,” McCarthy said. “Our mission is to get kids and their families engaged in physical activity, music and learning the important lesson of contributing to their community.”

For a school’s music program to receive funds, a minimum of 10 participants must be on the team and show up to run in the 1- mile walk/run, 5K or 20K event.

The eight participating schools from Edison were Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Herbert Hoover Middle School, James Madison Intermediate, James Madison Primary, Menlo Park Elementary School, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Woodbrook Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

“It went really well,” McCarthy said. “We’re lucky that the weather turned out pretty well. It was a big turnout, and things went really smoothly.”

McCarthy said approximately $5,500 will be divided up and donated to music programs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania schools who participated in the race. Edison schools will receive $3,500 of that amount.

Registered schools get listed on the website, Money is raised when people who join the team pay a registration fee.

Donations can also be made to a team. Company sponsorships go to a pool that supports all the teams.

McCarthy said many generous sponsors donated. The largest sponsorship donation was $5,000 from O.Berk Co. of Union, the company for which Simpson works.

“The president of the company is a huge music-lover and extremely supportive of music,” McCarthy said. “It was our largest donation ever, which was really exciting.”

Money is typically used to buy instruments and sheet music. This year, Mc- Carthy’s school and Woodbrook Elementary in Edison used part of the money to take their choruses on a trip to see a performance by Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the State Theatre. McCarthy brought more than 100 students.

“They loved them. It was very engaging,” McCarthy said. “It was a choral performance. They sing in Zulu, and we are singing in Zulu this year. So it was a great connection.”

McCarthy said she would love to take her students to a show again next year, and hopes to purchase more iPads for her third-, fourthand fifth-grade students to use at James Monroe Intermediate. Funds support the whole music program at the school, including the band and orchestra.

James Madison Intermediate Principal Michael Duggan said the money goes into a school account for the music department teachers to use as they need it.

“It’s a fun way to generate some extra money to support the music program because … the arts tend to get underfunded in education,” Duggan said.

McCarthy said she and Simpson would like to see the program grow even more. Expansion is already on the horizon, as a new chapter of Miles for Music is about to cross the finish line.

“Last year, Kim Lennon — a music teacher from Pennsylvania, who is a runner too — got her school involved and loved the event,” McCarthy said. “She wanted to get involved and is starting her own chapter of Miles for Music. They will be hosting an event at Tyler State Park in Richboro, Pa., on Oct. 26.”

More information about the event, along with race results, may also be found on the website.

McCarthy said she loved seeing the participants of Miles for Music, ranging from young children to parents.

“It was a family affair,” she said.

Principal Duggan ran in the 20K race. He noted that other district employees took part, including Ken Goglas, who works in the Edison Board of Education office and placed fifth in the 20K race. Art teacher Nick Mockoviak and fifth-grade teacher Marta Neri also ran in the race, along with Robert Piskecky, the music and art supervisor for the Edison School District.

“It was really a lot of fun,” Duggan said.

Cindy and Tony Bonito participated in the walk with their sons — Justin, 8, and Joshua, 10 — for the second year. Cindy is president of the James Madison PTO.

“It’s not only good exercise for us, but we like to take opportunities like this to show our support with different organizations,” Tony said. “It’s also a social platform, because we usually meet up and walk together with other families and colleagues.”

Joshua, who brought the event to his family’s attention last year when he was in fourth grade, walked the 1-mile stretch last year and ran it this year.

“For me, there’s more to life than sitting and being cooped up,” Joshua said. “I really felt that Miles for Music was a good opportunity. I had a good time.”