“The world is hugged by the faithful arms of volunteers.”
— Everett Mamor
It’s time to get one’s trot going while the turkey is basting at the eighth annual Family of New Paltz benefit 5K race/run or ten-and-under kids’ “Mashed Potato” race. The Turkey Trot has turned into a New Paltz tradition, with people of all ages, shapes, sizes and speeds running/walking/volunteering to raise money for Family of New Paltz, which provides the community with a food pantry, a 24-hour hotline, support groups, shelter and social services. Last year’s event attracted more than 1,500 people — including Turkey Trot runners, walkers, mashed potato kid runners, volunteers and spectators.
While there is laughter and enthusiasm and a community vibe that is tangible, the Turkey Trot is Family’s largest fundraiser, and right now the group needs the support more than ever. “It’s terrible,” said Kathy Cartagena, the veteran director of Family of New Paltz. “Our shelves are bare, our freezer is bare…we’re out of food and Thanksgiving is only two weeks away! These are incredibly difficult economic times and there are so many people hurting. Entering the race will help; dropping off a box of cereal or pasta or cans of tuna will help; providing gift cards to ShopRite or Stop & Shop is always great; and if you’ve earned a free turkey from ShopRite and do not intend to use it, tell them to give it to Family and they will deliver it to us themselves!”
Last year the Turkey Trot raised approximately $28,000 for Family, and this year they’re hoping to top that, with 700 entries two weeks before the event. “We are so blessed to have Gunter Spilhaus [of Adventure Junction, www.adventure-junction.com] as our meet director this year,” said Cartagena. “He’s brought this race to a whole other level! He has a Turkey Trot newsletter going and just knows how to run races, and we’re so grateful for him.”
Family of New Paltz also scored a new tee-shirt/sweatshirt/logo design from famous local artist Ryan Cronin (www.cronartusa.com). “His design is great, and we will also be selling a limited edition of tee-shirts and sweatshirts at the Turkey Trot with his design on the front and ‘Family of New Paltz’ on the back, so that people can wear it all year round.”
“It’s the most high-energy event, so full of life and love and caring,” said Cartagena. “Over and over again, people say to me that it’s like a ‘reunion,’ where they see friends and family and neighbors.”
One woman, recently divorced, had Cartagena laughing when she came in to register for the race and said, “I love this event — and the best part of my divorce is that I can participate in it, because my mother-in-law would never hold dinner!”
Long-time Turkey Trotter and local educator Mel Gruver-Lapolt said, “First and foremost, I want to support any event that goes to benefit Family of New Paltz. They are an incredible organization that does so much for our community.” That said, Gruver-Lapolt also spoke to the camaraderie of the Turkey Trot. “It’s a magical event. I so look forward to seeing so many friends and students of mine and their families on Thanksgiving morning. It makes me so grateful for what we have in our community. No one is arguing; all political differences are put aside; we are there as one community supporting Family.”
On the day of the race, The Fuzzy Lollipops will get the crowd going, beginning their live performance at 8:30 a.m. at Water Street Market, where the race begins and ends — at the corner of Main Street and Water Street in downtown New Paltz. Also on hand this year will be the young, vibrant musical group Forest Glen — only this time, they will be running the Mashed Potato race, with one band member dressed as a turkey and having the kids chase him down!
“This group of SUNY-New Paltz students and other young talented musicians are amazing,” said Cartagena. “They did a concert several months ago and donated all of their proceeds to us: $2,700! They are full of energy and community spirit and have offered to run our Mashed Potato race, which will be so much fun.”
The 3.1-mile run/walk begins at Water Street Market, heads south down Plains Road, makes a left onto the rail trail and circles back to the Market, where there will be free drinks and snacks for participants, warming stations before and after the race and prizes for top finishers in the various age groups. ++