Runners lined up at the starting line to compete in Porter-Starke Services’ annual Turkey Trot 5k Run/Walk. Porter-Starke Services has turned this race into a time-honored tradition after hosting it for nearly 20 years. This year, the event was sponsored by many local businesses and organizations, including Chester, Kankakee Valley REMC, Strack & Van Til, Tech Credit Union, Vale Park Animal Hospital, and Valparaiso University among others.
For both returning runners and fresh sets of legs, the Turkey Trot holds a special place in Valparaiso’s community. The proceeds of the Turkey Trot go to support behavioral and physical healthcare programs and services in the Region, but many runners have a more personal connection to the race.
“I do this every thanksgiving. This is probably my sixth year,” said Stephanie Mckee “This year my daughter wanted to run as well as her friend.”
Kim Vargas was there with her friend Kim Thurman. After Vargas suffered a stroke this past year, she was determined to complete the 5k one way or the other. The two had participated in the Turkey Trot in the past.
“Kim and I used to run 5ks together. She wanted to walk again,” said Thurman.
The race began at 8 a.m., but the crowds showed up well beforehand to prepare. Many participants could be seen completing warm-ups and pre-race rituals, ranging from stretching to team chants. Some even sported unique attire.
“A couple of my friends had run in onesies the previous year, so I decided to continue the tradition,” said Enoch Driscoll, sporting a green grinch style onesie. He and his family have volunteered every year, but this was his first running. He was all smiles waiting for the race to start.
“Seeing everyone launch in mass is just amazing and I love seeing them cross the finish line just as excited as when they started,” said Kate Sanders, Vice President of System Administration with Porter Starke.
Porter-Starke recognizes that the Turkey Trot wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful or even possible without the help of the many volunteers that turn out every year. The volunteers help people sign up the day of the race, handle crowds at the start and finish line, and pass out water along the course.
“My family and I volunteer to help every year,” said Helen Driscoll. She was there early in the morning helping to set up the thousands of water bottles and medals that would be handed out to finishers.
Chuck Harris was dressed in a turkey costume ready to lead the race on his motorcycle. Many attendees paused to take a selfie with Harris.
"I was asked to lead the race during one of our early years and it has become a tradition. I look forward to this every Thanksgiving," said Harris.
The volunteers are easy to find because many of them believe in Porter-Starke’s mission of promoting wellness in Northwest Indiana. Several volunteers have served for multiple years in a row after having fallen in love with the event.
For some like Oliva Hendzel, it was their first year volunteering. She was home from college and volunteering with her parents and siblings.
“This is a great way to volunteer and spend time with the family,” said Hendzel.
Porter-Starke holds the Turkey Trot in high regard as well, their dedication to the event genuine and heartfelt. It’s typically their biggest fundraiser of the year, and it helps them connect with the Region at large.
“This is our largest fundraiser, a joint effort between volunteers and the organization every year to raise funds to help on behalf of behavioral health here in Northwest Indiana,” said Elliot Miller, Marketing Director for Porter-Starke.
“This is a great thing for the community. It is great to see everyone come out and support Porter-Starke at Thanksgiving and be able to put donations towards our Porter-Starke Foundation services which supports clients and our community,” said Sanders.
Porter-Starke is very grateful for the continued support from the community that helps to make the Turkey Trot a success every year.
“We have over 2800 runners out here today. We want to thank everyone for coming out again in support of health and wellness,” said Miller.
To learn more about Porter-Starke services, the programs they offer, and their upcoming events, visit their website at www.porterstarke.org