WINCHESTER — Blue Ridge Hospice's annual Butterfly Run is ready to take flight again.

The event — scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 2 at Blandy Experimental Farm, 400 Blandy Farm Lane near Boyce — is designed to raise money for Blue Ridge Hospice and awareness about the nonprofit's ongoing mission to provide end-of-life care and grief-counseling services to residents of the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

This year marks a return to in-person racing. Due to COVID-19, last year's Butterfly Run was held virtually, meaning participants completed the 5K or 10K run wherever they chose and entered their times into an app.

Virtual racing will once again be an option this year, but there also will be an in-person race.

The last time the Butterfly Run was held in person was 2019. Rick Gowdy, director of philanthropy at Blue Ridge Hospice at 333 W. Cork St. in Winchester, said about 275 people participated.

"We're hoping for somewhere between 275 and 300 [runners this year]," Gowdy said. "We'll see where things are in terms of COVID and everything, but I think everybody's itching to get outside."

Blue Ridge Hospice President and CEO Cheryl Hamilton Fried said all staff and volunteers working the race will be wearing face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Runners will also need to wear masks before and after the races, but not while they're on the course. Races will start at 9 a.m. and be staggered so participants can remain socially distanced from their fellow competitors.

In addition to raising money for Blue Ridge Hospice, the Butterfly Run also presents an opportunity for area residents who have been cooped up for more than a year as a result of the pandemic to get outside and socialize with their neighbors.

"We really understand the amount of grief and anxiety individuals have experienced even without the loss of a loved one," Fried said. "We hope to provide that level of support through these types of events."

Online registration for this year's Butterfly Run is underway. From now until Sunday, the cost to register for the in-person races is $25 for the 5K and $30 for the 10K. Virtual race costs are $30 for the 5K and $35 for the 10K. Costs do not include nominal sign-up fees that start at $2.45 per person.

Pre-registration costs for all of the races will increase by $10 starting Monday.

People who sign up on the morning of the races will pay the highest fees: $45 for the in-person 5K or $50 for the in-person 10K, and $50 for the virtual 5K and $55 for the virtual 10K, plus sign-up fees.

Anyone who lines up sponsors and raises $100 or more for Blue Ridge Hospice will not have to pay registration fees. Additionally, prizes will be awarded to the participants who raise the most money for the nonprofit.

For those running at Blandy, packet pickups will be available starting at 8 a.m. Oct. 2. Awards will be given to the top overall in-person male and female competitors, plus the top three men and women in age categories 19 and younger, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70+.

No race awards will be presented to virtual runners, but everyone who registers for the Butterfly Run will receive a T-shirt. The shirts will be handed out on race morning to those running at Blandy and mailed to everyone else who participates virtually.

Blue Ridge Hospice hopes to raise at least $10,000 from this year's Butterfly Run. People who would rather not race can still support the cause by making a financial donation or becoming an event sponsor.

"We really value the support we get from the community," Fried said.

To register or learn more about this year's Butterfly Run at Blandy Experimental Farm, visit brhospice.org.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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