The annual Turkey Trot and food drive sponsored by the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge brought smiles to participants and organizers.
By Michael BRUER
Runners and walkers of all ages – some in costume, others pushing strollers, and still others running with dogs in tow – took to the streets of La Cañada early Thanksgiving morning to participate in the 20th Annual Turkey Trot. Sponsored by the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, the Turkey Trot attracted 1,400 participants, all bringing cans of food for the food drive that was part of the day’s festivities. This year saw the largest attendance in the race’s history according to organizers.
The residents of La Cañada and its surrounding cities weren’t the only cooperative element of the race; the weather proved to be just as accommodating: overcast and cool before and during the majority of the race, with the sun peaking out around 9 a.m.
Eager runners took their mark at Cornishon Avenue at 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, raced up Foothill Boulevard before turning around near El Pollo Loco in the 2200 block of Foothill and back down the hill, passing the Crescenta Cañada YMCA en route to the finish line at Memorial Park. Arcadia resident Phillip Gonzalez, 36, took the honor of finishing first, crossing the finish line in an impressive 15 minutes this year after finishing second in 2010, second in 2011 and third in 2012.
In the women’s division, La Cañada resident Cecily Lew, 25, finished first in just over 18 minutes.
For Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge executive director Deb Jordan, this was the second Turkey Trot that she has organized and planned during her 18-month tenure. She said she and LCFCC staff members were pleased with this year’s results and participation.
“This is our biggest turnout ever for this event. We had 1400 registered runners for the 5K and another 250-275 kids running in the 1K,” she said.
The community center is an integral part of outreach efforts in La Cañada, providing education programs for kids, teens, adults and seniors, as well as recreational programs for those age groups.
“It brings together the families. When we see registrations come in, as a family (mom, dad, grandma, daughter, son, etc.), that represents La Cañada well. The food drive element really showcases the giving nature of the residents,” she said. “Last year we provided food for 150 families. This year we anticipate providing food for at least that amount, if not more. The fact that these people are bringing food and volunteering their time for families they don’t even see is truly remarkable.”
Jordan also mentioned that one woman brought in $2,000 worth of food, while the Builders’ Club of La Cañada Middle School dropped off a truck-load – literally – of food that they collected.
For Jordan, race day is particularly exciting.
“The day of, when you see all the families come … seeing the families is rewarding for me, watching all the kids in the kids’ mile. Our ceramics department makes the medals for the kids. One mom came in to say that her daughter wore the medal the whole day, which is sweet. We’re happy the weather cooperated, so we can continue to offer these programs to the residents.
One of the most active families on record is the Sproule family. Cathy Sproule and her family all participated in this year’s race, a group comprising 15 people ranging in age from infancy to 63 and spanning three generations. Eight grandkids and seven adults in the Sproule clan took part, on the suggestion of Cathy.
“I’m a firm believer in giving back to the community. Since everyone was going to be here together, and some of the kids are a tad young to feed the homeless, I decided we would run this race together,” she said. “We wanted to contribute to the community center as well as a food drive for the local sheriffs. I believe it is important that my grandkids develop not only a legacy of having fun but of giving back to the community.”
All of the Sproule family members were participants in the Turkey Trot, including Cathy’s son, Chris, 36. Chris grew up in La Cañada, attending La Cañada Middle School and playing for the national championship soccer team in high school before playing in college. He became a fireman after college, working in Clark County in Las Vegas. Memorial Day 2003 proved to be a sad day for Chris when his ATV rolled over on him and paralyzed him from the chest down.
Though the injury slowed Chris, his spirit held strong. He continued his education and received his master’s degree in emergency management and is currently pursuing a PhD. After trying wheelchair basketball, Chris was given a bike (a handcycle) by none other than Darrell Gwynn, a racecar driver who infamously was paralyzed in a race in 1990. Chris took to the bike sporadically at first. With a renewed competitive spirit, he competed in his first marathon in Long Beach three months ago, and his second, the Wounded Warrior marathon in Las Vegas, last month.
Chris’ daughters, 5, and 11, ran next to their father in this year’s Turkey Trot in support.
Cathy hopes that her family members, especially the grandkids, realize how important it is to reach out especially during the holiday season.
“[I want the kids to] take some time to think of their community and other people. I hope we have instilled in them that giving back to the community is your responsibility as a citizen,” she said.
With that attitude, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sproules participating in more races – as a family – in the future.