Michiana Thanksgiving Day races attract more than 6,000 participants annually, which, next to Sunburst, makes it our second biggest running day of the year. Nationwide, it’s the country’s largest race day! The tradition is becoming as set as pumpkin pie.
Giving back with Awareness
Mike Perez, resource and development director for Faith Mission of Elkhart, has worked with Paula Turk of Stone Soup Promotions for the past eight years to grow the Turkey Stampede from 600 in2008 to more than 2,500 (2,502 to be exact) last year. “The value is making people aware,” Mike said.
Faith Mission, with 156 beds and serving more than 200,000 meals a year, has served downtown Elkhart’s homeless for 60 years. While proceeds from the Stampede go to the Faith Mission budget, at $12 to run, “menu pricing” makes it one of the most affordable races of the year. Participants can sign up only to run, or add a shirt for $15, chip timing for $4.
“We keep it that way so families come out for fun—overall, we are highlighting the fact there are other people in need that day.”
Mike and Paula make a good team. Paula handles the race details while Mike coordinates the 100 or so volunteers, and the 100 or so more volunteers who serve Thanksgiving Day meals to Elkhart’s homeless that same day. The morning is efficient yet festive. “People want to be in and out,” Mike said. But there is a DJ and strollers and dogs are welcome. If you are competitive, try to pass the guy in the turkey costume for a bonus $25, or be a top finisher and be awarded a gravy boat.
“It’s a family thing—it’s tradition.”Jerry Hoffman, South Bend
Jerry Hoffman of South Bend can’t remember missing any of the past 34 Niles-Buchanan Thanksgiving Day races. Mind you, Jerry didn’t even start running until he was 40. So at age 81, he is looking forward to No. 35, the event now a set-in-stone family tradition he and wife Norma share with their daughters and grandchildren who always bring their running shoes when they come home for the holiday.
“I just keep doing it,” said the former St. Joseph High School track coach of 30 years. Jerry also runs the Sunburst 5K and Blueberry stomp faith-fully. He likes the YMCA Thanksgiving Day run especially because it is on the holiday. “It’s a family thing—it’s tradition.”
Forty-one years ago, Jerry began running only to improve his endurance for handball. Immediately, he was hooked. “I started losing weight and went from 180 to 160 pounds—I liked that pretty well.” He followed Ron Gunn’s southwest Michigan races and soon his daughters were old enough to come an run the toddler trots. Lisa and Lorilynn Hoffman eventually ran for their Dad-coach at St. Joe, helping bring the school team state championships in cross country and track. Lisa won an individual state title in 1992 in the 3200 meter and both girls ran track as Boilermakers at Purdue.
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, the Hoffmans will be keeping the faith. In the meantime, Jerry continues his almost-daily jogging routine of 45 minutes. “ That gives me about three decent miles, and that feels good. Lot’s of guys my age have trouble walking, so as long as I can do it, I will.”