Candace Gonzales: an environmental activist running for a reason

Candace Gonzales with an award for being a top fundraiser at the 7th Annual Suffer Better Fall Trail Runs in Staunton State Park. Candace raised over $700 for Conservation Colorado.

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On Oct. 14, Candace Gonzales ran a 25-kilometer — or about 16 miles — trail running race outside of Conifer to raise over $700 for Conservation Colorado.

“Knowing that those funds would enhance Conservation Colorado’s mission made my race more enjoyable and extra special,” Candace said, reflecting on the race. “I knew that each mile ran and each dollar raised would protect Colorado’s climate, air, land, water and communities including mine, the Latine community.”

Candace is an outdoor enthusiast and loves to run. One of the reasons why she ran in the 7th Annual Suffer Better Fall Trail Runs in Staunton State Park is to highlight the high barriers to entry for marginalized communities to access the plethora of outdoor activities Colorado has to offer.

“My parents, who were both Chacon, fostered a love of the outdoors in me by taking me camping as a child which is why I love nature,” Candace explained. “As a Chicana I think it’s really important for others to see me on the trail running because representation matters, and trail running is still an area where we need to see more representation especially in the Latine community.”

Gonzales shared that conservation work is a big part of how she honors her Latine heritage, noting that for her family conservation was an essential part of life.

“I like to say I learned my conservation efforts at an early age at my abuela’s casita where she hung laundry on a clothesline, used old butter containers as tupperware and made sure we never left a light on in a room where we were not in,” Candace said.

Another reason Candace ran the 25k was to raise awareness of environmental justice issues, an integral part of Conservation Colorado’s mission. Candace volunteers in Commerce City and the North Denver neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, locations which include one of the most-polluted zip codes in the U.S. She explained that Conservation Colorado’s focus on and inclusion of these disproportionately impacted communities in their environmental advocacy work was the primary reason why she chose to fundraise for the organization.

“I was inspired by Conservation Colorado’s promotion of Latine community advocates’ voices during Hispanic Heritage Month and recognition that our voices matter,” Gonzales said. “To see a nonprofit actually be so inclusive and recognizing communities that are impacted by pollution was really huge for me. That was a big motivator for me to say, ‘This is a nonprofit that I want to support.’ The actual communities that are affected and care about these issues are not always highlighted in environmental work and Conservation Colorado highlighted them. That was really meaningful and impactful.”

Donors like Candace strengthen our efforts to fight for the future of Colorado’s air, water, lands and communities.