Racing to Give Back: Trail-Running Community Donates Thousands to NJ Charities

The inclusive Sassquad Trail Running group makes a party out of doing good.

Two enthusiastic runners smile for the camera.
Sassquad Trail Running welcomes runners, walkers and hikers to its races that benefit local charities. Photo courtesy of Gregory Hudson

When Kim Levinsky scouts locations for races, she goes the extra mile. As the founder of Sassquad Trail Running, she hosts events each month in parks and preserves to raise money for local charities. “That way, we have a tangible impact on that community,” says the West Caldwell native.

Levinsky and Sassquad have left their imprint on several New Jersey groups, including Operation Chillout, which provides clothing to homeless veterans in the state, and Soxcess, which gives socks to homeless shelters in Hudson County. Other partners having included the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Livingston Neighbors Helping Neighbors, MEND (Meeting Essential Needs With Dignity), and Bigger Than the Trail, which helps people struggling with mental health issues. The group has donated more than $26,000, as well as socks, warm clothing and food, since its inception in 2018.

A passionate runner and a former personal trainer, Levinsky held her first race at the South Mountain Reservation in 2018. About 100 runners paid $25 each, and funds went to the South Mountain Conservancy, which works to preserve and protect the Essex County reservation. “Runners came up to me afterward asking, ‘When’s the next race?’” she says.

Sassquad has since held more than 35 races. Upcoming events include one at Mahwah’s Ramapo Valley County Reservation on March 12, which will benefit the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, and another at the South Mountain Reservation on April 9. “We’re coming into their park, using their land and resources,” Levinsky says, “so let’s give back.”

[RELATED: How the Sourland Conservancy Fights Ecological Threats]

Runners, walkers and hikers are encouraged to register; there’s a flat fee with the option to donate $5 or more. “Over 60 percent of runners choose to make a donation,” Levinsky says. Sassquad donates additional funds from registration proceeds after event expenses are covered.

Levinsky refers to her races as trail parties, and is the group’s self-proclaimed trail-party director. Races vary in distance and draw all kinds of runners with differing levels of experience. “One race drew a couple in their 70s, as well as a mother with her baby,” Levinsky says.

The idea is to welcome anyone and everyone, while helping causes. Even the group’s name refers to people coming together, fusing squad with Sasquatch—the woodsy mythological creature. “It’s a fun way to communicate that we’re all about community,” Levinsky says.

Sassquad Trail Running was founded in 2018 by Kim Levinsky to welcome all ages, paces and people to a trail-running community that supports local charities. Sassquad Trail Running has donated more than $26,000 to eight New Jersey charities and nonprofits. Participants can make donations when registering for a race. Visit, and follow the group on Facebook and Instagram.

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