The Chatham Turkey Trot is a Thanksgiving morning tradition and the organizers and originators of the event are looking forward to keeping the 2020 event running, albeit with a new format that turns the run/walk into a DIY event. Costumes are still encouraged, as are donations to the Lower Cape Outreach Council.
The event first kicked off in 2005, started by Mary Parsons and Linda Redding, who drew inspiration from the “We Gather Together” run/walk held in Sandwich on the same day. The Chatham event offered an opportunity to get the Lower Cape involved, and by extension the Lower Cape Outreach Council and those who utilize its services.
In 2016, the Chatham Turkey Trot achieved official non-profit status and a committee was established to help Redding and Parsons coordinate the annual event, which traditionally sees more than 2,000 participants each year.
When it came to planning the 2020 event, committee members, including Jen Watson, Linda Redding's daughter, knew that holding the in-person event could prove problematic given that COVID-19 still poses a threat locally and nationally. They decided to put the run/walk into the hands, or feet, of participants, giving them until the end of November to log their miles and make donations.
They also knew that this year in particular has been financially challenging for many people, and dropped the registration fee from $20 to $10, a sum they hope will inspire more people to take part.
“We know that everybody is struggling financially,” said Watson. “Everybody is having challenges and so is the LCOC. We want to make sure everything we’re raising is going directly to them.”
The DIY format – through which participants will run or walk the 5K on their own – means no overhead costs for LCOC this year since there will be no registration tents and no food sales. In 2019, a total of 1,950 participants braved wet weather to raise $46,000 and fill a food truck three-quarters of the way with non-perishable food items, all to benefit the LCOC. In spite of frigid cold in 2018, the event saw more than 2,300 participants who raised $40,000 and filled a 20-foot truck with food.
Watson said the funds that will ideally be raised through the 2020 event is a real help.
“That’s a really positive thing,” she said. “We can’t collect groceries, so we're encouraging people to make an extra donation to LCOC.” The money that’s raised could be used to pay bills or purchase more food.
Watson and the folks at LCOC are aware that they're not likely to make their traditional donation amounts this year, but are grateful for everything that comes in.
“In the past, typically we donate easily over $30,000 for the past four or five years,” Watson said. “We know we’re not going to get close to that this year, but whatever we’re able to do will go right to LCOC.”
A select number of T-shirts were sold through Kaleidoscope, and Turkey Trot organizers are asking those who purchased the 2020 shirts to wear them, snap a photo, and post it on social media with the hashtag chathamturkeytrot2020. Folks can also tag the Chatham Turkey Trot in their posts (but be sure it's the Massachusetts version and not New Jersey).
“We’re encouraging people to do that the entire week of Thanksgiving,” Watson said. “They can upload their photos and although we’re not together physically, we’ll be together virtually.”
Watson said donations have been rolling in, along with registrations.
“We’re over $10,000 so far and we’re hoping people will continue to register and donate, anything they’re able to do for families living on the Lower Cape,” she said.
Watson gave a shoutout to her fellow committee members, including her mother, Parsons, husband Jon Watson, Susan Carroll, Jen Avery and George Avery.
“I’m lucky to spend my time with all of these people,” she said. “And we’re giving back to our community. That’s the ultimate overreaching goal for all of us.”
Interested participants can register at runsignup.com/Race/MA/Chatham/ChathamTurkeyTrot, or by downloading the registration form at chathamturkeytrot.com and mailing it to Chatham Turkey Trot, PO Box 62, South Chatham, MA, 02659. Please make checks payable to Chatham Turkey Trot. Registration closes Nov. 29.