Port Washington residents cleared space for turkey early Thursday, starting their day by running in the 41st annual Thanksgiving Day Run.
A record 2,975 runners participated in the five-mile run hosted by the Community Chest of Port Washington, a nonprofit organization that raises money for grants, and the Town of North Hempstead.
“It’s such an amazing and inspiring event for everyone involved,” said Julia Meer Harnick, executive director of the Community Chest. “It’s actually heartbreakingly beautiful to see the people run and the crowds cheer.”
Gathering in Manorhaven on Edgewood Road for an 8:30 a.m. start, runners prepared for a five-mile loop starting and ending in Manorhaven and going through Sands Point, Baxter Estates and Port Washington North.
With a lineup of community-based fundraisers throughout the year, the Thanksgiving Day Run is the Community Chest’s most successful, Harnick said.
The Community Chest netted over $100,000, she said, with contributions from different foundations, runners’ entry fees and other donations from residents.
Beginning in August, the Community Chest started organizing the annual run, signing up volunteers, enlisting sponsors and “working out all of the logistical parts,” Harnick said.
Over 150 people volunteered, including members of Paul D. Schreiber High School’s Key Club and lacrosse team, Community Chest board members and over 50 people from the Port Washington community.
“The people who are volunteering are taking time away from their Thanksgiving,” Harnick said. “They are doing it because they want to give back to the community and because they feel like helping. It’s really great for everyone.”
Harnick said despite the chilly morning, the Port Washington streets were packed with spectators, handing out water and playing music from their homes to encourage runners.
“For some runners, this is a very serious race,” Harnick said. “We have some terrific runners in Port Washington who can break records, but for the majority of the runners, it’s just a beautiful event and an opportunity to help people.”
The top male finishers were Bobby Asher, finishing in 27:07; Aaron Siff-Scherr, finishing at 27:24; and Jack Ellwood, finishing at 28:09.
Both Siff-Scherr and Ellwood are 17-year-old runners from Port Washington.
The top female finishers were all local residents: Joelle Feinberg finished at 30:12, Theresa McCabe finished at 30:19 and Maggie Tursi finished at 31:28.
The money raised will fund grants for organizations around Port Washington, as well as need-based scholarships. The Community Chest makes 26 grants for programs covering bully prevention, education, meals for senior citizens, counseling for children, substance abuse work and domestic violence counseling, Harnick said.
“It’s great that this is such a big event for funding our grants,” Harnick said. “It makes the Thanksgiving Run more special and inspiring.”
Harnick said the run is a family-based event, with three generations of the family involved.
“It’s something people come out and do with their families,” Harnick said. “It’s joyous for them to come together and participate. Some people run, others walk, but they are doing it together, either as a family or a community.”
Sponsors who donated to the Community Chest for the run received free entry into the race, which they gave away as “scholarship entries” for people who wanted to run, Harnick said.
Not only did sponsors donate money and their entries, but many provided other services, too.
The Peter & Jeri Dejana Family Foundation gave away 200 Thanksgiving pies; Om Sweet Om Yoga and Yoga Life conducted a pre-run stretch for the runners; Baker Air donated trucks; Frank’s Pizzeria donated pizza; and the Nassau County Police, the Port Washington Police and the Sands Point Police donated their time, Harnick said.
The event was originally a for-profit race for competitive runners in the Port Washington area, but for the past 11 years, it has been organized by the Community Chest of Port Washington to sponsor charitable grants for organizations, according to a history of the event.