Volunteer: Hershey Half Marathon

Autumn is here (kind of) and that means it is time to volunteer!

On October 15th, I volunteered the Hershey Half Marathon in Hershey, PA.

I signed up very late in the game on September 28th and there were still a ton of opportunities available. I quickly picked out a shift at the chocolate aid and got ready to hand out chocolate!

My shift on Sunday was from 8am to 10:30am. They did ask us to get there closer to 7:30 to avoid the road closures. I aimed to get there closer to 7am so I wouldn’t feel rushed and had a little extra time just in case I got turned around.

I am glad I got there early! In the dark and not knowing the area really well, I completely missed the parking garage we were told to park at. I did see the restaurant they gave us as a landmark but I couldn’t figure out where to park on the first pass. Once I turned around and came back, I could see where I was supposed to turn and was able to quickly park.

I had a short walk of about 2 blocks to where we were setting up. Once at the tent, I met the station leader, Brandon. He had me sign in and then gave me my volunteer shirt. A really cool thing about the volunteer shirts – one of the kids at the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital designs the back of the shirt! CMN is the beneficiary of the Hershey Half and I thought it was a really unique way to include them! (There is also a Miracle Mile where children and families (Miracle families) from the hospital come out to cheer on the runners!)

Since the race wasn’t happening yet, we could get warmed up with coffee or hot chocolate and donuts while we all got to know each other. Hershey had also brought us some chocolate too! I took my candy back to the car and grabbed my soda since I still had some time on my hands.

There were huge boxes of fun size Hershey bars just waiting to be given out. We used the empty candy boxes (from the volunteer candy stash) and made our own baskets of candy to give out once the runners came by.

We got in place and dodged the last cars that were allowed through (seriously – we thought the road was shut down and oh look! a car!)

Brandon brought out a portable speaker and started playing music and we all just started to relax and dance.

As the fast runners started to come through, no one took candy (boo!) but then the still very fast but hey I am at Hershey runners started to come and chocolate started changing hands.

I think my favorite runners were the ones who weren’t shut about collecting from all of us (I know I would!). I also really liked when a runner would come through and interact with one of us (whether it was a smile, thank you, or just something silly in response to us being silly).

Who knew handing out tiny chocolate bars would make your arm tired?!

Anywho, we stayed and handed out candy until closer to 11am. We didn’t want to leave anyone on the course without some delicious chocolate!

It was probably the easiest volunteer shift I have ever had – with very little to set up or breakdown and a leader who knew how to delegate and get everyone involved. (Very Disney even though I wasn’t at Disney).

Upon signing out, each volunteer was presented with a voucher good for 1 admission during the Hershey seasons (Halloween, Christmas, Spring Time or regular season). We could also help ourselves to what fun size bars were left – we had a nice amount left even after the runners came through!

My plan for the day was to at least visit Chocolate World before I made the drive home. The voucher changed my plans and off to the park I went!

Pros: still a lot of desirable shifts so close to race day, chocolate, volunteer shirt, voucher for 1 to the park

Con: I found communication lacking – volunteer “final instructions” weren’t sent out until late on Friday and addresses weren’t in the packet (coming from Baltimore, it would have been easier to navigate to an address vs a parking garage that was listed by one name but was really called something else)


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