Eric Rubinson harbors the notion that it's always better to give than to receive. So on Friday, when everyone is running from one store to another in an effort to take advantage of early holiday sales, he and several friends will be running on various local tracks to raise money to help victims of for Super Storm Sandy.
Born in Staten Island and raised in Middletown, Rubinson now residents in Cranford and said his home sustained minimal damage and didn't even lose power during the storm. However, when he saw the physical damage that occurred on the Jersey Shore, Staten Island and surrounding areas, coupled with the emotional toll that the storm took on his hometown friends, Rubinson said he "was moved to act."
"Originally, I just wanted to turn some heads for the benefit of the local charities and planned to run from my mom's house in Middletown to the Foodbank on Nov. 4. However, the roads were not all cleared and I didn't think it was enough time to make a meaningful impact, so I deferred the event. I decided to challenge my friends to raise $5,000 for any charities by Thanksgiving and offered to run a marathon on a high school track if they could do it. It slowly evolved to what it was, and has grown to a team of 25 people," said Rubinson, who has run 54 marathons, at least one in each state in the U.S.
And just like that, Track Friday was born. Rubinson decided his run would take place on Black Friday — a day when people are generally focused on buying presents. The reasoning behind the date is simple: instead of giving gifts...try giving back.
In just a matter of a few weeks, Rubinson's grassroots effort spread by way of social media, specifically a Facebook page touting the initiative. The page has about 104 "likes" and is still growing.
"As a result of the overwhelming positive response to not only support but actively participate, Track Friday was born," Rubinson said. "What started as a silly bet to encourage some donations to local charities is now becoming a movement across multiple communities in New Jersey, New York and beyond."
Rubinson, however, has asked people to do more than just make a donation.
"I asked people to do more than just donate. Perhaps they could run some laps with me, or hit a track in their own hometown in the spirit of the initiative," he said.
Participation in track Friday is simple. Volunteers can run or walk at any track or running path, in any location for any distance or length of time. The idea is to have participants walking or running at various locations at the same time, for the same purpose.
"Any publicly available track can be used for Track Friday. In that sense, this is not an 'organized' event. It is simply a way to raise awareness and bring communities together," Rubinson said. "Tracks and running paths in Middletown, Cranford, Bergen County, Toms River and Brick as well as Brookhaven, N.Y. and locations in Ohio and Arizona will be utilized by our participants."
Most tracks are open to the public just about every day of the week, which means that anyone can show up and take part in the initiative without registering.
To keep track of donations without actually handling any of the cash flow, Rubinson has set up a Track Friday Team page on a website called Razoo. The site allows participants to set up individual pages so that the funds they raise can be directed to a charity of their choice. Rubinson has chosen to run for the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, a non-profit that has provided significant post-Sandy support in the community.
"I simply thought it would be a good thing to do, since the Foodbank is already stressed to provide service at this time of year, and the response to Sandy has taxed them further," the Cranford resident said.
As of Wednesday night, the initiative had raised more than $15,000 for charities supporting Super Storm Sandy relief, nearly tripling the initial $5,000 goal that Rubinson initially set. This means Rubinson will be holding up his end of the deal and running approximately 102 laps around his old high school track — the equivalent of a marathon, which is just over 26 miles.
Although the initial objective of Track Friday was to mobilize a network of people connected to areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Rubinson, whose wife Nutan is also helping organize the initiative, said they quickly realized the potential.
"By serving as advocate for charitable giving in the community while providing a forum in which people can create their own personal campaigns for causes that they care about, the Track Friday team will empower citizens to improve their communities and advance their causes," Rubinson said. "By engaging volunteer, community-based organizers and contributors, and by leveraging existing technology frameworks such as Google, Facebook, and Razoo, the Track Friday team can achieve its mission without requiring investments from the organizations that benefit from the advocacy that the Track Friday team seeks to provide."
For more news and updates about Cranford, subscribe to our free newsletter, "like" us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CranfordPatch or follow @CranfordPatch on Twitter. Patch will donate $1 to AmeriCares to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief for every tweet with the hashtag #PatchRebuilds.