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Runners step up to help feed kids

Participants run down a snowy road wearing matching blaze orange hats during the 2014 Thanksgiving Day Fun Walk/Run in Lake Nebagamon. The annual event supports the BackPack Program, which provides food to homeless students on weekends.

Before they dig into their Thanksgiving meal, area runners will gather to feed children in need. The 2015 Thanksgiving Day Fun Run/Walk kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Lake Nebagamon, and everyone can join the fun. Contrary to the name, not a single step is required.

“All participants need to do is show up Thanksgiving morning at the Lake Nebagamon Auditorium with, hopefully, a donation to the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. That’s it,” said Debbie Anderson, who took part in the 2014 run. “They probably don’t even need to run or walk, but where’s the fun in that?”

Launched last year, the event doesn’t include a T-shirt or bragging rights. No times will be recorded; no awards handed out. Instead, it offers a chance to make a difference. Money raised will support the BackPack Program, which provides homeless children with backpacks full of food on weekends and school vacations. About 30 Maple School District students are enrolled in the program, which is organized through Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

“Since we all had turkeys to cook and families to be with, we didn’t want to spend a lot of time Thanksgiving morning as race directors,” said run co-chair Marsha Scherz. “We also believe that the best part of a ‘fun walk/run’ is the camaraderie, spending time together and being active. We all have plenty of race T-shirts, and we wanted all of the money to go to the BackPack Program, not to other expenses.”

Co-chairs Scherz, Shari Olson and Pam Sarvela have been running together for 20 years. They cooked up the idea of pairing a holiday run with a food fundraiser.

“We are a part of an active running group who had often met to run Thanksgiving morning, and we thought this would be a good time to raise money for the program,” Scherz said.

The 2014 run took place in sub-zero temperatures.

“In spite of the cold, about 22 people and a dog walked or ran,” Scherz said. In addition to members of the running group and their families, staff and parents from the Maple School District participated. Together, they raised $153 for the BackPack Program.

“Running as a group is so much easier than logging on the miles by yourself,” Olson said. “It was just another reason to get together, and it was a bonus that it was for a great cause in our community.” 

They’re serving up a second run next week. The entire community is invited; no fee is required. Costumes and blaze orange apparel are encouraged.

“A couple other ladies and I used to run in Duluth’s Gobble Gallop every Thanksgiving morning,” Anderson said. “We plan to do this local one wearing our costumes of turkey hats, aprons and oven mitts.” Another group of runners intends to wear matching blaze orange scarves.

Folks who are unable to join the Thanksgiving run can still lend a hand. Donations can be made online at under the donation category “BackPack Program – Maple/Iron River.” For information, call Anderson at 715-374-3537.