The 2014 Winter Solstice Run

As the sun set on June 20, a team of runners gathered on the shore of Lake Michigan, soon to commence an expedition from the northernmost tip of Leelanau Peninsula and continue 40 miles through the shortest night of the year, toward Grand Traverse Bay. These 50 runners represented a movement of gender equality for women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C) and raised $30,000 to fund the launch of On The Ground’s Project Congo. Now the Solstice Run travels to Florida.

Area runners are invited to join the 2014 Winter Solstice Run, an ultra-run on the first day of winter (December 21), to help raise awareness and funds for women empowerment initiatives in the eastern region of the D.R.C. The run begins at sunrise from the westernmost point of Scenic Hwy 30A and continues along the beaches, around the many lakes of South Walton, and through Florida state forests. Runners may choose between 40 miles, 20 miles, a four-person relay (10 miles per runner), or the first 10 miles of the run. Participants are asked to solicit pledges in support of Project Congo using the same model of solidarity as the 2013 and 2014 Summer Solstice Runs as well as the 250-mile Run Across Ethiopia held in 2011 and the 130-mile Run Across Palestine held in 2012 by On The Ground (OTG).

Funds raised directly support women’s empowerment programs and gender equality initiatives in the eastern DRC region. This is the newest focus area for OTG, the U.S. based non-profit, as well as the first Winter Solstice Run fundraiser hosted by OTG business partner, Amavida Coffee and Tea of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. “Violence against women, often used as a systemic tactic of war to destabilize populations and destroy community and family bonds, has become more common and increasingly brutal in recent years in the D.R.C” according to the American Journal of Public Health. The same report estimates that about 35% of women in the D.R.C have experienced some form of sexual violence, with 450,000 women raped annually (about one rape every minute). In some areas of eastern Congo, 2 out of 3 women have been victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence. Since 1998, violent conflict, disease and poverty in the D.R.C have killed over 5 million men, women, and children—more than any war since World War II.

Hans Voss, visionary of the Solstice Run, reveals “Six years ago, while training, I had this crazy idea that it would be exciting to run all night. Why not Summer Solstice?” Each year since, they attracted more people. Voss is now “convinced that the Solstice Run is going to be a big-time event – and that it will trigger others all around the world. And, now it’s even better because we are running for a really good cause.” For some this will be their first Solstice Run; for others it may be their sixth. For Steven Loudermilk, Barista at Amavida Coffee & Tea, it will be the second time around after partaking in the overnight Summer Solstice Run held in Traverse City, Michigan June 20th, 2014. “I hardly knew anyone at the start. I wasn’t sure I could hang with these folks,” shares Loudermilk. “I think if you share the back stretch of a 40-mile run with someone, you wouldn’t even have to speak the same language to create a bond. What makes it even better is we were raising money for a great cause.”

For more information or to sign up to participate in the 2014 Solstice Run, visit: or

About On the Ground: On The Ground’s purpose is to support sustainable community development in farming regions across the world. We accomplish this mission by partnering with other philanthropic agencies, donors, and communities to provide opportunities for indigenous farming communities around the globe to build lasting infrastructure. In concert with sustainable trading practices by OTG partners, this infrastructure makes it possible for these communities to create real and meaningful prosperity for all their citizens. Learn more about us and donate at