We asked many of our region's leading nonprofits to share their plans for the New Year, and to tell us their biggest challenges and fondest wishes for 2012.

Many are focusing on helping all of us become healthier, by preventing health problems.

The Atlantic City Marathon Race Series, which is organized by the Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center in Margate and added an April Fool's Day race last year, would like more people to become runners.

It is encouraging people to begin training now to compete in its 7K, 11K, or new half-marathon in April; or in a 5K, half-marathon or full marathon in October.

Race Director Genia Chapman said her fondest hope is that more people register for the races at http://www.acmarathon.org/" target= "_blank">www.acmarathon.org/.

The YMCA of Vineland/Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA wants to expand its health promotion projects beyond the "gym and swim" and exercise options, said director Christine Ward-Garrison. It is working more with people with cancer, nutrition for families, and fighting obesity, especially in children, Ward-Garrison said.

She would like to see every seventh-grader take advantage of the Y's 7th Grade Initiative, which allows kids a free specialized membership so they can experience fun and socializing in a safe environment.

Other organizations plan new ways of raising funds and raising awareness. The Brendan Borek High Tides Memorial Fund, which provides financial and emotional assistance to Cape May County families struggling with pediatric cancers, has recently set up an e-commerce store on its web site at http://www.brendansfund.org/shop" target= "_blank">www.brendansfund.org/shop and hopes to sell more merchandise to help with its mission.

Gilda's Club South Jersey in Linwood is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2012, and will launch a public awareness campaign, so people know the support organization serves all people with all types of cancers. It will expand its offerings to include more programs for young adults and men, said CEO Sarah Griffith.

The Somers Point Jazz Society will focus more on taking its educational programs into schools, said President Nicholas Regine.

Executive Director Jacqueline Meiluta, of Volunteers in Medicine of Cape May County, said her fondest hope is that "a few more primary care doctors would see it in their hearts to volunteer for as little as one, four-hour clinic per month, scheduled at their convenience." VIM provides primary medical care to the uninsured, and could see many more people if more doctors would volunteer, Meiluta said.

Nonprofits with varied missions are hoping for an upturn in the economy in 2012.

Senior Research Scientist Nellie Nellie Tsipoura, of New Jersey Audubon's Citizen Science Program, said an improved economy will "be reflected in increased funding going into conservation programs." And Jennifer Sullivan and Lisa Clark, co-founders of Kibble Cupboard of South Jersey, which recently became a 501c3 charity to support spay and neuter programs for pets, said they'd love to see the need for assistance for pet owners decrease, as the economy improves.

To read more about nonprofits' plans and hopes for the New Year, click on this story at pressofatlanticcity.com/.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post: