Newsome High School students sacrificed Sunday afternoon to spend time at The Art Monkey studio in Park Square, creating ceramic medals for the upcoming Turkey Trot
Their motivation was only partly benevolent.
They also were after the coveted 100 service hours needed to qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship.
Providing such service hours was the reason FishHawk Ranch mother Leda Eaton founded the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K run four years ago.
"My kids were on the cross-country team at Newsome High School and needed service hours," recalled Eaton. "I remembered turkey trots when I lived in West Virginia and suggested we do one here."
Given that the run takes place on a holiday morning, Eaton wasn't sure what kind of turnout to expect that first year.
"I thought we'd maybe have 100 people," she said. "We had 450 and were completely overwhelmed. Since then, it's grown by leaps and bounds."
Due to the number of people wanting to participate, the run was relocated from Newsome High School to the parking lot of the 5642 FishHawk Crossing Blvd., two years ago. The race now takes runners down FishHawk Crossing Boulevard, past Park Square and down Osprey Ridge Drive.
Participation isn't limited to FishHawk residents. The Turkey Trot is one of the largest road races in the area, attracting runners from surrounding counties. Last year more than 2,000 people hit the street on Thanksgiving morning in pursuit of one of the ceramic medals created by the Newsome students.
While the turkey is basting in the oven and the pumpkin pie is cooling on the kitchen counter, residents gather for what's become a family tradition for many.
Among the families that participated last year were Jill and Bob Dewhurst and their two sons.
"We just thought it would be something fun to do, start a new tradition," said Jill Dewhurst.
For Susan Messer, it's a chance to get some exercise on a picture-perfect Thanksgiving morning before sitting down to a calorie-laden feast.
"It beats sitting at home on the couch," she said.
The event includes both a children's 1-mile fun run as well as a more competitive 5K for adults. While parents run, children are invited to make crafts provided by Superior Residences and overseen by Newsome students. There's also photos with the Turkey Trot mascot. Water, bananas and power bars are all donated for the event.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Not only does the Turkey Trot fulfill the mission of providing community service hours to students (students have earned more than 1,200 service hours through the event), but it now has a new mission.
With proceeds from the race, Eaton founded the Seeds of Hope Food Pantry, which provides food and other items to needy families in Lithia.
The food bank previously operated out of the Lamb of God Lutheran Church but has outgrown the space and is now seeking a new home. It currently serves 269 people.
"One hundred percent of the Turkey Trot proceeds go to the food pantry," said Eaton, noting that last year's race raised $20,000. "Seeds of Hope is one of the only food banks that doesn't struggle with how it's going to pay for the food."
Seeds of Hope is able to purchase food for 19 cents a pound through a partnership with Feeding America Tampa Bay.
"There is a spirit around the Turkey Trot that permeates everything we do," said Eaton. "Everyone comes and leaves smiling and, with all the proceeds going to our local food bank, it’s a perfect fit for a Thanksgiving Day cause we can all support.”
Residents interested in participating can preregister by going online.
Registration for the Nov. 22 event begins at 6:30 a.m.
The 5K run begins at 8 a.m. Registration is $25.
The fun run is a 9 a.m. Registration is $10.
Download the registration form and bring it in or mail it to: FishHawk YMCA Express, 16144 Churchview Dr., Suite 201, Lithia FL 33547.