Three years ago, Sax Macy Fromm & Co. hosted its first-ever 4-mile race at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park.
The day was overcast. In fact, it rained everywhere but the mountain. And the event was costly: The partners of the firm had agreed to foot the bill for all the expenses.
Stuart Berger, a CPA with the firm now known as SaxBST, said he had no idea whether anyone would show up that first year. He wasn't even a runner.
But people did show up — 250 or so — and SaxBST raised roughly $43,000 for the oncology department at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.
For Berger, who organized that first event, that signified success.
"Quite frankly, the first year was challenging because we didn't know what to expect. We didn't know if people were going to show up," said Berger, who specializes in real estate work. "As more and more people showed up, we were excited."
The 4 Miler at Garret Mountain has become an annual event, now in its third year. The next race will take place on Sept. 6, and once again, all proceeds go to St. Joe's.
The idea behind the Clifton-based CPA firm's yearly jog came right around the time Sax Macy turned 50, when it created a foundation through which it awarded a handful of small grants.
It was an admirable effort, Berger said, "but at the end of the day, we had no real, significant impact on the community."
So he started weighing the options for a large-scale philanthropic effort, something that would involve as many people as possible and have a direct and sizable impact on the community where the firm had long been headquartered.
Golf seemed like a natural fit, given certain stereotypes about CPAs, but Berger worried a golf tournament would exclude too many people.
Running was something he knew little about — he has yet to actually run in his 4-mile race — but he knew that those who didn't want to run, could walk, and those who didn't want to walk, could volunteer.
Berger's initial plan was to host a 5K through the streets of Clifton. When he heard about Garret Mountain, that 5K quickly morphed into a hilly 4-mile challenge.
When it came time to pick the charity that would benefit from all that running, that was the easy part, Berger said. All it took was one visit to the children's oncology unit at St. Joe's.
"How do you not go with that?" Berger said. "Almost a no-brainer to go with that cause."
And the hospital has been a thankful recipient. Last year, when Berger came to present the unit with a check, the children had a surprise waiting for him, too.
"We presented the check; they presented this banner the children had done thanking us for it," Berger said.
"To help them any which way we can is wonderful," he added. "It's what it's all about."
So come September, the goal is to get at least 500 participants and to trump the $62,000 raised in 2013. That seems somewhat more attainable since Sax Macy Fromm & Co. merged with Bollam, Sheedy, Torani & Co. earlier this year.
"What's exciting to us this year is that, Jan. 1, our firm merged, so we're now double the size," Berger said. "And we're very excited about getting those folks involved in our run as well."
ALSO ON NJBIZ: