The 30th Annual Cape Coral Turkey Trot, which will be held on Thanksgiving morning, will benefit the Cape Coral Hospital Emergency Room expansion project.
Mike Hamlin, founder of the Turkey Trot and the Fort Myers Track Club, said he began the annual Thanksgiving 5k run in 1978 to help raise money for the YMCA which was in the process of building a facility in Cape Coral.
"They wanted to know how to make a buck for the YMCA and I suggested the Turkey Trot," he said. "It turned out that people love to run on Thanksgiving day in the morning."
Hamlin said he got the idea from a similar event that was held in Ohio, where he used to live, every year.
The first Turkey Trot attracted 380 participants, which he said was about 280 more than the Fort Myers Track Club anticipated. He said the following year they were more prepared for the event.
"It turned out better than we ever thought," Hamlin said.
He said every year they have between 1,000 to 1,300 people register for the run, which, he explained, would likely attract more runners, but neighboring cities have adopted the idea as well.
Candace Pemberton, vice president of the Fort Myers Track Club, said the Turkey Trot this year has eight major sponsors and three contributing sponsors for the event.
"Some are food donations and others are cash donations," she explained.
The funds that are collected from the Turkey Trot will go towards purchasing equipment for the new Weigner Taeni Center for emergency services at Cape Coral Hospital's three new pediatric treatment rooms.
Pemberton said the Fort Myers Track Club started collecting funds for the hospital during last year's Turkey Trot.
"We gave almost $20,000 and we pledged to give the hospital $100,000 over the next few years," she explained.
Pemberton said the new pediatric treatment rooms are "much needed because of the large population of the children in the area and we really don't have a lot of facilities between here and Tampa and here and Miami that treat pediatric intensive care."
She said the rooms opened last month to the public.
"So now our future donations will help pay for the loans and additional equipment for the rooms, as you know they are always making advancement for the equipment," Candace said.
The 5k run will begin at 7:30 a.m., and the Tot Trot will be held at 9:15 a.m. The meeting location for the Turkey Trot will be held at Cape Coral Hospital.
"One of the things that makes this event unique is it truly is a family event," said Tom Murphy, past president of the Fort Myers Track Club.
Murphy said over the past 11 years that he has been involved with the Turkey Trot he has witnessed many families participating in the event that have never done something like it before.
He said the Turkey Trot is one of the few events where they have the most new people registered for the event.
Murphy said the Turkey Trot offers something for the entire family regardless of their ability or age.
The 5k run/walk will begin at 7:30 a.m. The Tot Trot for children 10 years and younger have the opportunity to compete in a 100-yard sprint at 9:15 a.m.
The course will begin on Southeast 6th Street and Del Prado Boulevard in front of the hospital and continue down Southeast 6th Street to Southeast 13th Court and then along residential streets. The race will then end in the back of the Cape Coral Hospital parking lot near the Wellness Center.
"This year we are starting a new chip system that records your finish time," Hamlin said.
The ChronoTrack Timing System looks like a roll of film, Hamlin explained. He said the new technology that can can be thrown away when the participants are done, is going to streamline the program. The chip timing is scanned to the individuals race number to record the final time once they cross the finish line.
Murphy said bagels from the Bagel Factory, bananas, grapes, orange juice, Gatorade and water will be provided for participants on Thanksgiving morning.
A commemorative T-shirt will be provided to all those who register for the event.
Run Florida, which is located in Fort Myers, has been sponsoring the Turkey Trot for many years, Pemberton said.
Those who wish to participate in the Turkey Trot may pre-register at Run Florida, 13211 McGregor Blvd., today, along with picking up their packets on the same day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hamlin said the 5k $20 pre-registration ends today. He said from Nov. 22 until the day before the race registration will cost $25.
The one-mile fun run is $10 and registration for the Tot Trot is $5.
"You can sign up the day of the race also for $35," he said.
"What we are trying to accomplish is to encourage everyone to sign up early," Murphy said, since the registration is cheaper before the day of the event.
Individuals can also register the day of the event for $35 beginning at 6 a.m. in the Wellness Center of Cape Coral.
The other locations where participants can pick up their race packets include the Wellness Center of Cape Coral, 609 S.E. 13th Court on Nov. 25 from 12-6 p.m. and on race day beginning at 6 a.m.
Mike said he has participated in the Turkey Trot 5k run at least a half dozen times in the past.
"It's tradition, you run then you can eat, basically that's it," he said. "Everyone is a creature of habit."
"It's fun, you see all kinds of people, little ones and older ones, the whole gambit," he said about the turnout. "It's a good mixture, you see people you haven't seen in a year."
Murphy said there will be awards for the winners of the Turkey Trot 5K, along with door prizes. He said they will also be giving away 30 pairs of running shoes.
Awards will be given to the Top Male and Female Masters Winners for participants who are 40 years old and older, 50 years old and older and 60 years old and older.
Male and female awards will also be given to various age groups ranging from 10 and younger to 70 years old and older.
All the children who participate in the Tot Trot will receive a ribbon and a T-shirt.
He said on Thursday the Fort Myers Track Club had almost 700 individuals registered for the Turkey Trot.
He said he hopes to have at least 1,700 participate in the event this year.
Murphy said the registration for the event is up this year compared to this time last year.
"We are ahead of where we were last year," he said.
Pemberton said last year they had 1,726 participants for the Turkey Trot.
"We should have that number or greater this year, also," she said.
For additional information, visit www.fortmyerstrackclub.com.