SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The first Virtual 5k hosted by the Phi Chi Medical Fraternity of the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine raised over $1000 for the Nature Foundation St. Maarten. This event organized by Phi Chi Service Chair Julie Wancik offered prizes for participants to complete a 5 kilometer walk or run on their own time. Fifteen local businesses contributed prizes in an effort to reward participants ranging from gift cards to local restaurants, hour long massages, and even an introduction to scuba diving course. “We are so thankful for the hard work of Ms. Wancik and the 5K committee to put together this event. Due to the restrictions of the COVID19 virus pandemic it was difficult to host group events throughout the year. Having a virtual 5K was a great way to promote the foundation and help motivate the community to get out into nature and stay healthy. This event would also not have been a success without the generous support of the many local businesses that donated prizes for runners. We can’t express how very thankful we are that so many chose to support us even in these difficult times,” said Leslie Hickerson Educational Outreach officer at the Nature Foundation St. Maarten. Over 50 participants showed their support for the Nature Foundation by donating the $20 registration fee and competing for the amazing prizes by running or walking 5 kilometers. As a gift for registering for the run each runner received a Nature Foundation Eco Bracelet. Prizes were given to the top fastest runners and random prize drawings were held throughout the submission dates. Both the American Medical University and the Medical Fraternity Phi Chi often show their support for the Nature Foundation through beach clean-ups, program support, and awareness campaigns. “Phi Chi (Medical Fraternity) has always had a commitment to the environmental health of SXM. As the Nature Foundation helps us with Mullet Bay beach clean ups every term of the year, it felt only natural to support the Foundation in a way that helps them sustainably further their mission. Further, as medical students learning online during this pandemic, I knew how important maintaining physical activity is. My team of fellow Phi Chi members, Andy, Teresa, and Tanique and with Leslie at the NFSXM’s help, were able to reach many across SXM and across the USA to participate. I am very grateful for the business who donated their goods and services to reward participants.” The funding raised from the Virtual 5K will help the Nature Foundation continue to perform its essential tasks in order to preserve and protect the natural environment of St. Maarten. The Foundation preforms essential research and monitoring, responds to environmental disasters, works to help educate residents and visitors about the importance of protecting our delicate ecosystem, and monitors the marine protected area in St. Maarten. The Nature Foundation Eco-Bracelets are available at many locations including the Nature Foundation office in return for a $10 donation to the Nature Foundation. The Eco-bracelet is made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fabric, which is the primary material used for the production of many water bottles around the world. Billions of PET bottles are discarded each year and a significant amount of them become littered in the natural environment, representing one of the biggest waste problems on Earth. A special thanks to our generous prize donations from: Fit Foods SXM, FM Hair Salon, Grace Yoga, Jules French Bakery, Ocean Explorers Dive Center, The Scuba Shop St. Maarten, Spaghetti House, Sunset Spa, The Palms Restaurant, Tri-Sport, and Yami Sushi. Watch to enter and participate in the 2nd Annual Virtual 5K run/walk benefiting the Nature Foundation of SXM later this Spring of 2021.