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Peter Donato, seen here in his backyard in Toronto on July 30, 2020, runs Good Times Running, an event-planning business that specializes in organizing corporate activities.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Peter Donato

The project: The Isolation Run

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of daily life in March, Peter Donato quickly became restless and eager to do something productive.

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“I was like a lot of people in early April, just watching Netflix and watching the news,” Mr. Donato, 53, recalled from his home in Toronto. “I wasn’t contributing to making masks or anything.”

Mr. Donato runs Good Times Running, an event-planning business that specializes in organizing corporate activities, and his wife suggested he put together a run to raise money for health care workers. But that would be tricky.

The pandemic could last for months and it would be impossible to schedule a date for a run. Instead, Mr. Donato came up with The Isolation Run: a fundraising activity that lets participants decide how far they want to run – or bike, walk, skate, swim, paddle – and where they want their donations to go. Participants register on the website https://www.isolationrun.org and list their activity, their goal and their preferred charity. For motivation, they can join teams and chat on Facebook groups. All of the donations are handled by Race Roster, an online service, in co-ordination with the charities.

Participants register on the website https://www.isolationrun.org and list their activity, their goal and their preferred charity.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

“We gave people the option of a fitness challenge,” he said. “Try your biggest month of running ever, or set a goal to get in shape for a marathon.” So far nearly 500 people have signed up along with close to 100 charities. This month Mr. Donato challenged Members of Parliament to form teams in their ridings and cover 8,030 kilometres, the length of Canada. “You don’t have to be a runner,” added Aidan Roman-Crossland, the run’s volunteer manager. “It doesn’t matter. You can raise thousands or raise $5.” Ms. Roman-Crossland added that she and her three children have raised $600 from their running.

So far the participants have raised close to $25,000 and Mr. Donato is hoping to see that grow to $50,000. His own goal is $10,000 and his fitness target is to get in shape for the next Boston Marathon.

He’s been overwhelmed by the many volunteers from across Canada who are helping co-ordinate the run, most of whom he’s only met online. “We want to be able to look back on COVID and say yeah I watched a lot of movies and I hope I got in shape. But I also wanted to give back as a runner myself and as a person.”

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