Getting tacky for a great cause

Published 10:22 pm Friday, November 18, 2016

With the Christmas holiday just around the corner, a wacky running event has started to garner a following across the Hampton Roads area.

The Tacky Sweater 5K, now in its third year, encourages participants to wear their tackiest Christmas sweaters and décor. The event will benefit Edmarc Children’s Hospice and the Eastern Virginia Medical School Melanoma Awareness program.

Edmarc provides services to help ease the trauma of pediatric illness, loss and bereavement.

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“This is helping to raise awareness and money for great causes,” said Debbie Stitzer-Brame, executive director at Edmarc.

Edmarc was founded in 1978 by the members of Suffolk Presbyterian Church. Its minister, Edward Page, and a 7-year-old boy in the church, Marcus Hogge, were seriously ill at the same time — Page from cancer, Marcus from a progressive neuromuscular disorder. Page died in 1979, and Marcus died in 1980. The new ministry was named Edmarc in their honor.

Ann Hupp, co-founder of Mettle Events, lost her best friend, Mary “Diddie” Ossi, to melanoma in February of 2013.

“She was like my sister,” Hupp said.

A few years back, Hupp decided she wanted to host an event in honor of Ossi. So, she approached Edmarc with the Tacky Sweater run idea.

Ossi, who was a Norfolk elementary school teacher, was passionate about her profession and students. With this in mind, it tied in well with Edmarc’s principles of servicing children and their families.

“It seemed like a good fit,” Stitzer-Brame said.

As Ossi’s health declined, she was forced to stop teaching. However, during her treatment, she was still “teaching.” Doctors were testing the effectiveness of new melanoma drugs on her.

“She was cool not teaching, because she was the subject,” Hupp said.

The run has continued to grow in popularity over the years and has attracted sizable crowds.

“We have an absolute blast with this run,” Hupp said.

The event has both a competitive 5K run and walk. The top three overall men and women and the top three men and women in each age group are awarded.

Also, all 5K runners will receive a shirt and unique finisher medals, which are designed as tacky sweaters.

There will be live music from Norfolk-based band Dirty Toys and refreshments provided by Smartmouth Brewing Company out of Norfolk.

Additionally, participants are encouraged to donate refreshments, toiletries, toys and other items to the Edmarc facility. In the past, the runners have been very giving.

Stitzer-Brame said the event and the donations show Edmarc’s families “people care about them.”

Registration for the event is $40 and can be done online at the event’s website, The race will begin at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10 at Ocean View Beach Park in Norfolk.

“It’s a family, festive, fun holiday event,” Hupp said.