TRAVERSE CITY —
By CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle
Santa's elves, reindeer and the big guy himself will hoof it Sunday during the fifth Annual Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk.
The non-competitive event hosted by the Traverse City Track Club begins and ends at the Park Place Hotel. Participants wind through downtown streets, many dressed for the occasion in Santa hats or suits, elf garb or antlers.
Everyone gets a pair of jingle bells to tie on their running shoes. The resulting musical serenade against the backdrop of seasonal decorations creates its own holiday magic.
"You really get to enjoy the holiday festivities downtown," said Karl Bastian, a Track Club member and volunteer who enjoys the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk with family.
"It's not a timed event, people are out there to have fun with family before Christmas," he added. "It's a good mix of runners and walkers."
The weather does not daunt organizers, who hold it regardless of precipitation.
"A couple of times we've had mild weather and another time there was a snowstorm," Bastian said. "That just made it all the more fun."
Proceeds benefit Goodwill Industries, which receives the resulting money and non-perishable food donations. Last year, the event netted $1,200 and 400 pounds of food for the nonprofit; in 2010, the total was $1,500 for Goodwill.
"It's a fun event and it helps people in the community overcome barriers by supporting our programs," said Ruth Blick, director of marketing and communications for Goodwill. "About one pound of food equals one meal, if that puts it into perspective."
The Traverse City Track Club launched the run/walk in part as a thank-you to the community, a way to share fun together while helping others. The first year about 100 people participated and the event now draws nearly 400 people of all ages.
"We keep the registration fees low because we really want it to be a family event," said Karen Wells, president of the club.
The club's mission is to support young runners and help people of any age continue running, and it hosts multiple events to raise funds. Their annual calendar also includes the Bayshore Marathon, Remembrance Run and Frozen Foot Race.
For 2012, event proceeds allowed the club to donate $211,642 to the community.
More than 55 students will volunteer at the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk, including the boys and girls track and cross country teams from both Traverse City Central and West High Schools. In addition, members of the St. Francis High School volleyball team will assist.