When retired Warwick elementary school teacher and Warwick Rotary Club member Tom Sanford proposed a Thanksgiving morning turkey trot as a means of raising charitable funds, his plan was to team up …
When retired Warwick elementary school teacher and Warwick Rotary Club member Tom Sanford proposed a Thanksgiving morning turkey trot as a means of raising charitable funds, his plan was to team up with one of the high schools. It made perfect sense. If the students were aboard, they would bring in lots of participants. The incentive was that as a partner, half the funds raised would go to the school.
The first of the club’s turkey trots – which, like all subsequent trots, was held at City Park – was ten years go. Sanford and his son Chris, also a member of the service club, put hours into the event. They cut out turkey signs from plywood to direct runners and walkers to registration tables, made lawn signs to advertise the trot and recruited club members for different tasks from sorting and handing out T-shirts at the registration to handing out water bottles midway through the course and at the finish line. On top of that there were setup and cleanup crews and club members were called on to come up with sponsors.
What makes good sense, however, doesn’t always meet expectations. High school students did turn out, as did club members and their families for the first Rotary Club Turkey Trot. There were less than 100 walker-runners and an awful lot of work went into making what seemed to be meager returns. However, a tradition and a system were born. The event became easier and easier to run over time. There was a cadre of volunteers to organize the trot and then, too, the trot became a family event, building with every year. A decade of trots has raised about $60,000 for charitable causes and provided a reason to get out and moving for thousands on Thanksgiving morning.
This year online registration closed when it hit 400. They kept coming and by 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning the crowd swelled to more than 500. Members of The Warwick Physical Therapy Institute along with its owner Dan Forlasto, who has been a regular at the trot, got the group limbered up doing stretches and jumping jacks. Runners and walkers spilled over the starting line and, in fact, stretched well beyond the line. Standing on a ladder wearing a turkey hat and carrying a bull horn, Sanford offered welcoming words, and started a countdown to the start. It didn’t happen this year. If there was an official start, it was lost in the enthusiasm of the moment. The mass started moving and then those in front began running. They were off.
That really didn’t matter. The trot is not an official race and the clock at the finish, while a reasonable representation, is more of an estimation. This year it was a little late getting started, meaning that those depending on it were likely delighted with their time.
Sanford was there and chasing things down with Jo-Ann Schofield, who has taken over as top trot turkey. She reported the trot is expected to bring in $15,000 that the club will disburse to nonprofits in Warwick.
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