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Fox pups Southwest Wildlife

Southwest Wildlife provided this photo of a fox pup at their facility.

When I first started working with Aravaipa Running, I wanted to formulate a couple of charity partnerships that would be meaningful to the running community. Southwest Wildlife Conservation in Scottsdale initially reached out to us in 2015 about the possibility of hosting a 5K fundraiser. At the time, we didn't have the resources to add that event to our schedule but I wanted to learn more.

I scheduled a tour of their facility and fell instantly in love with their mission: “Saving our wildlife, one life at a time.”

Southwest Wildlife is a rehabilitation center and sanctuary that also educates people about wildlife and is an active partner in efforts to conserve the Mexican gray wolf, an endangered species. From my first moments onsite, I could feel the love and compassion they felt for their wards, which come from around the state.

This partnership made perfect sense to me. Aravaipa Running hosts events on trails, so we share our ecosystem with these animals. I loved that Southwest Wildlife provides sanctuary for animals that can’t be released; however, more than that, I loved that their main focus is doing everything in their power to rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild.

We started by creating a charity beer garden for Southwest Wildlife at our local events. Over the years, this has provided a significant contribution, but I still felt there was more we could do. That’s why this year we created the Southwest Wildlife Virtual Race Series, a running event to benefit wildlife.

It’s a virtual race series, so anyone who cares about Arizona’s wild creatures can participate. You run, walk or hike the distance on your own time within a certain period, anywhere you like.

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It was important to Southwest Wildlife to connect the races in the series with animals currently in their care. We created each race around a specific animal, telling its story through marketing and in the custom race bib and shirt and woodcut medal that will go to each participant. This race series is very personal to Aravaipa and to Southwest Wildlife, as we work together to foster long-term relationships with our environment and the animals that inhabit it.

We hope to have people from Flagstaff and throughout Arizona join others from all over the country (and maybe the world!) who are running in support of these animals. By wearing race shirts and posting photos of your medals, you will raise awareness of the incredible work Southwest Wildlife does to help wildlife. The money raised is going directly to the care, shelter, medical needs and nutrition of these animals. The more we can do to help, the more care Southwest Wildlife can provide to creatures in need.

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Hayley Pollack is the president of Aravaipa Running.

Julie Hammonds is coordinating editor for High Country Running. She invites submissions on any aspect of the local running scene. Send columns, tips and ideas to runner@juliehammonds.com or via Twitter @highcountry_run.

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