For the last five years, before the doors of the Las Vegas Convention Center open on the Tuesday morning of NAB Show, hundreds of show attendees have been lacing up their running shoes and taking part in the 4K 4Charity Fun Run organized by AWS Elemental.
This year’s run will be a particularly meaningful one, as it not only is the fifth edition at NAB Show, but the funds raised through all 4K 4Charity events are expected to put the organization over the $1 million mark in funds raised since its founding in 2014.
The late Sam Blackman, former CEO and co-founder of AWS Elemental, and AWS Elemental PR Lead Laura Barber founded the race and launched it at IBC in Amsterdam in 2014, hoping to provide a unique and healthy networking alternative at trade shows, while also providing an opportunity to give back.
“It was an extremely organic event; we were hopeful people would show up, and in fact they did,” says Barber.
“This was really a great expression of Sam’s vision and his focus, strong focus and support on equity in the [industry] and in the communities in which we do business,” she said.
That support has only grown among other industry professionals. The first NAB Show race was in 2015, and since then Barber says that turnout has been growing on average by double-digit percentages event to event and year to year. In addition to annual races at IBC and NAB Show, runs take place in Portland, Ore., and just last year started at SMPTE in Los Angeles.
Through all these events, the 4K 4Charity has been able to support many organizations that seek to increase the diversity and equality of those in the broadcast and technology industries. Funds have been raised to contribute to a coding academy for girls in Gaza; for the underwriting of computer science classes for economically disadvantaged primary school students in Amsterdam; for the purchase of 135 laptops and 14 smart TVs for a high school that supports underserved students in the Portland area; and more. At this year’s NAB Show race, the funds will go to Girls Who Code, which focuses on closing the gender gap in technology.
“The common theme to all of this is that the 4K 4Chairty Fun Run and the wonderful individuals who support it each year or at each industry event, our very generous sponsors and, of course, the trade associations — NAB, IBC and recently SMPTE — are contributing to elevating the issue of increased diversity within our industry,” Barber said. “But not just talking about it, actually taking meaningful action to do something to give those who are underrepresented more opportunities within the tech industry and to pursue the kinds of technology education that are required for a professional career.”
In addition to crossing that $1 million mark, Barber explained that another exciting development is happening with this year’s 4K run at NAB Show. An anonymous donor has pledged to provide additional funding based on the turnout. If between 300 and 500 people run the course, the donor will provide $10,000; that will jump to $20,000 with 500–750 people running and $30,000 if more than 750 people take to the course tomorrow morning.
“I invite, together with NAB and with all of our sponsors, everybody who is interested in the run to please come out to Sunset Park … and join us in the run, because we [could] be able to not quite double, but very nearly, the amount raised if we get 750 or more people out there,” said Barber.
However, Barber is aware that trade show schedules can be hectic. And so, if for whatever reason you are not able to run but would like to contribute to 4K 4Charity’s efforts, individuals can register and opt only to contribute.
All donations made by participants go to the selected nonprofit; average donations are about $20. Meanwhile, 50 percent of contributions from event sponsors go to the nonprofit and the other half helps with offsetting event costs.
Things won’t stop when that $1 million benchmark is reached. Barber describes 4K 4Charity like a startup: “That first million takes a little bit longer, and we hope we can get to the next million in the next year or the next two years.”
In addition to continuing to support charitable organizations, 4K 4Charity wants to make the experience more engaging and rewarding for the participants as well. Different features are in development, including the possibility of adding an 8K distance.
No matter how the event looks in the next year or in the next five, Barber and Blackman’s original goal will remain the same.
“We’re going to see the needle move in the media and entertainment industry and the technology industry in terms of closing the gender gap and providing more opportunities for everyone,” Barber said.