St. Joseph Academy’s 5K and Fall Fest honors Dot Cartica
HAMMONTON—St. Joseph Academy (SJA) hosted its annual 5K and Fall Fest on Oct. 22, inviting students, parents and runners to get their blood pumping and take part in some seasonal fun. Organized and hosted by boys basketball coach Paul Rodio, this year’s 5K was in honor of the late Dorothy “Dot” Cartica. The longtime physical education teacher and renowned field hockey coach was a fixture of the community, and Rodio explained how important it was to honor that legacy.
“We know she was a great role model, coach, teacher, a mother of the school,” Rodio said. “And as we’re pushing female enrollment here, I think it’s an appropriate time to [honor Cartica].”
In addition to paying tribute to Cartica, the 5K served as a fundraiser for the school. Anyone was welcome to register, with runners of every skill level encouraged to participate. Runners were also organized into specific categories, including separate groupings for all girls and boys, boys under 14 years old, and women ages 40-49.
At roughly 11 a.m., runners and walkers lined up at the starting line on Peach Street and kicked off the festivities, heading northwest towards South Packard Street. Those in it for the full 5K experience quickly broke off, while a wave of walkers took in their sun-soaked stroll. Rodio was happy to see so many people show up, and was fortunate for the fair weather compared to previous years.
“Last year we had some [runners], it was a little smaller because of the rain. We had around 80 [runners] pre-registered, probably had another 20-30 show up,” Rodio said.
Events like the annual 5K are essential to both SJA and Rodio personally, as he organizes many of the school’s fundraising efforts. He shared his hopes for the 5K in the future, and how it brings together those who were touched by the work Cartica did for the school.
“We really want to partner with the town to make this bigger and bigger,” Rodio said. “I think we could do even better, probably in the future. It’s a good mix of St. Joe families, alumni and we get random runners. It’s a healthy mix.”
“We have some [of] the field hockey team for Mrs. Cartica, because she was a big component of that,” Rodio said. “She came and influenced a lot of field hockey players, so alumni and their team are all here and walked together.”
Once all of the runners and walkers crossed the finish line, SJA’s Fall Fest commenced with warm food, joyful music and various vendors for people to enjoy. Though the whipping wind had tablecloths flapping wildly and even an umbrella going rogue, everyone was grateful to relax with friends and family after putting their bodies to the test.
After giving everyone time to settle in, Rodio began the process of handing out medals for each category. While a wide range of names took home prizes for first, second and third place in their respective categories, one name made its presence known to the entire crowd.
The Vivadelli family had three members participate in SJA’s 5K, and all three took home first place medals. Justin Vivadelli for the male overall category, Jenna Vivadelli for the female overall category, and Jill Vivadelli for the female ages 40-49 category.
The Minghenelli family also showed out for the event, with Dylan Minghenelli taking home the second place medal for males ages 15-19, and Tami Minghenelli securing the third place medal for females ages 50-59.
After medals were awarded, families were encouraged to hang out, enjoy themselves and participate in a giveaway for Phillies and Eagles tickets. Some families took their leave as soon as their victory was assured, others took in all the Fall Fest had to offer, and the fun didn’t leave SJA until everything wrapped up in the late afternoon.
SJA’s parking lot may usually house students and faculty, but on the afternoon of Oct. 22, it hosted a community brought together by the importance of physical well-being, the funding of essential education and pure family fun.
The work done by SJA’s annual 5K isn’t just essential to the school, it’s essential to all the work done by Cartica as a member of the SJA community. After a lifelong commitment to an institution integral to the core of what Hammonton is as a town, it’s only fitting that its residents converge on the school she loved so much to get their blood flowing, and demonstrate how strong Hammontonians are when they come together.
This article and photos were produced in collaboration with New Jersey Civic Information Consortium and Rowan