Pam Johnson

Published: July 1, 2020,

With some major fundraisers set aside due to COVID-19 this year, SARAH Foundation’s Kim Vigliotti is hoping the shoreline will rise to the challenge—the virtual Summer Breeze Challenge, that is.

Generally known across the shoreline as SARAH’s annual Summer Breeze Ride, a very successful one-day cycling event fundraiser, this year’s Summer Breeze Challenge will instead be a virtual, month-long event for participants of all ages and many recreational activity interests. Officially running from July 1 to Friday, July 31, the Summer Breeze Challenge carries many of the same hallmarks of the cycling event, including mapped-out, challenging courses and state-of-the-art tracking for competitors. But it also opens the field to participants who can sign on, as individuals or teams, to complete their pledged miles by walking, running, swimming, hiking, or any other activity they enjoy, with a month to complete their goals.

“We’ve broadened it. You can bike, run, walk, hike, kayak, or do whatever you want to set as your personal goal,” says Kim. “We did put out the bike routes that would have been followed, so if anybody is interested in biking our routes, we do have everything from shorter distances to the half metric century on our website.”

If not for COVID-19 restrictions, the one-day ride would have moved to Guilford from Madison this year, based at the Knights of Columbus with a finish-line gathering for participants. On the bright side, some expenses that would have been involved with running a live course and provisioning a one-day large gathering won’t be required for the virtual event, and Kim is happy to note those savings are being passed onto participants.

“We’ve lowered the registration fee, because it’s less cost to us as an individualized event. And we really wanted to make it an affordable, fun way to get people out of their homes and help them to get active,” says Kim. “This seemed like a nice way to do that, and raise funds for SARAH.”

To register now or anytime through July 31, visit ($40 for adults, $20 for ages 18 and under). Participants are asked to set their personal goal and also try to set a fundraising goal, by asking friends, family, co-workers, and others to pledge a donation in support of meeting their challenge. Individuals and teams will be able to track their miles and fundraise from July 1 to 31. Everyone can log their miles using a free Strava account/app. Prizes will be awarded for the individual and team with the most pledges, for the individual and team with the most miles, and for the individual and team raising the most funds. Participants who raise $150 or more will be entered into a raffle for prizes and also receive a water bottle and their choice of an ice cream voucher from Bishop’s Orchards or a pint of beer at DuVig Brewing Company (if 21 or older).

Speaking of DuVig, Kim is also one quarter of the DuVig founding team. The successful Branford brewery was established by the Dugas and Vigliotti families in 2013. Back then, Kim and her husband, Dan Vigliotti, were home-brewing enthusiasts who happened into a partnership with Guilford neighbors and beer enthusiasts Darcy and Scott Dugas. DuVig’s popular brewery, located on School Ground Road, opened to the public in 2014.

As a company, “we support many local and non-local non-profits. We give away product to support causes—that’s just the nature of the beer industry,” says Kim. “We’re happy to do that, and anytime SARAH needs the help, I’m happy to help out. It’s a nice way to be able to support the SARAH Foundation.”

Thinking Creatively to Support Essential Services

When Kim began her role as community relations coordinator with SARAH Foundation a little more than a year ago, part of her work was to focus on planning three major annual fundraisers critical to essential programs of the SARAH family of agencies: the annual SARAH Gala, the Summer Breeze Challenge, and the annual SARAH golf tourney.

In March, as COVID-19 began closing in, the door began to close on planning to hold those events in 2020. Sadly, this year’s gala, which is the single largest fundraiser for the non-profit, has been canceled; and the golf tourney set for August is being canceled too, says Kim.

“We hope eventually events will come back into play, because we definitely rely on the major events we run every year,” says Kim. “The gala, which is our biggest event, had to be canceled, as well as our [traditional] bike ride event and our golf event. So our three major fundraisers for the year, unfortunately, are not happening.”

At the same time, due to COVID-19, SARAH’s essential services continue to need support, perhaps now more than ever.
“We are, like many places, trying to figure out new and different ways to fundraise,” says Kim. “It’s been very difficult; despite everything that’s happening, our agencies are still up and running and providing residential care and other programs. And the expenses are even more now than ever, with so much [needed] for PPE [personal protective equipment] and other safety measures.”
While some non-profit services were closed by the pandemic, many of SARAH’s client support programs are essential, including those requiring nurses, staff members, and aides who also needed to be provisioned with PPE.

“It’s been quite a challenge, especially as we have different people in different homes who have different requirements, and we do have people assisting them who are essential—some of these people can’t live without these supports,” says Kim. “Some recreational programs have been put on hold, but even our Birth to Three, our speech therapy, that’s being done virtually. We have to get iPads to families to support that.”

SARAH’s continuing efforts to support those with disabilities who are often marginalized in society has also become especially important during the isolation created by quarantine and COVID-19 closings, she notes.

“SARAH Foundation supports programs that tend to integrate folks into the community. This situation has made them even more isolated, in some respects,” says Kim.

With so many counting on SARAH for so much, at a time when so many fundraising events are on hold, the success of the virtual Summer Breeze Challenge is especially critical this year. Kim is hopeful that the expanded options of this year’s virtual, month-long event will generate support and participation stretching far beyond the shoreline.

“Services supported by SARAH’s annual fundraisers are facing a critical point, and the beauty of this virtual fundraiser is that it can be done anywhere, not just in Guilford. It could be done virtually anywhere in the world,” says Kim.