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Turkey Trot returns for its 13th year

Each Thanksgiving season, runners and walkers embark on a race that gives back

Photos illustrating Bellingham's annual Turkey Trot. The event begins this Saturday, Nov. 18, at 9 a.m. in Squalicum Creek Park. // Photos courtesy of GRBC and Steph Thurman

Bellingham’s annual 5k Turkey Trot kicks off this Saturday, Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. in Squalicum Creek Park, with all net proceeds directly benefiting the Bellingham Food Bank. The cost to sign up is $15 per runner, with an option to make an additional donation to the Bellingham Food Bank.

The organizer of the event, the Greater Bellingham Running Club, has put on the event since 2010, with each year drawing in a steady crowd of people. 

The GBRC is a fully volunteer-driven nonprofit that has served Bellingham since 1976. Their primary goal is to make running more accessible and inviting to the community. 

Larry Kwiatkowski, GBRC board member and volunteer coordinator for the Turkey Trot, seeks to get as many people out there as he can. 

“Our primary task is to ensure that, come race day, the race director has all the bodies necessary to stage the race. Typically there will be 20 - 25 volunteers at each race,” Kwiatkowski said. “It is a fundraiser for the food bank, our goal each year is to maximize the number of participants.”

Steph Thurman participated in last year's event and volunteered prior to the race. Kwiatkowski works with volunteers who also want to run so their schedules don’t conflict.

“What I love about GBRC is that all their races are affordable and community friendly, like The Turkey Trot,” Thurman said. “If you’re a member, it's free, and then all your donations just go to the food bank. They try to keep it volunteer run.”

The event is inclusive to everyone, including people with young children. The Turkey Trot is intended to be a fun and light-hearted environment for people to run or walk for a cause. Leashed dogs are also welcome.

The event wouldn’t be possible without the time and dedication put forth by the volunteers. The GBRC requires its members to volunteer once each year, and in return, they don’t have to pay any race fees. 

“If you love to run, come help GBRC give others some of that joy!” Kwiatkowski said

Apart from running events, Bellingham is home to a multitude of organizations that would not exist without volunteers. 

The Bellingham Food Bank is another organization that is dependent on volunteers. Hundreds of volunteers dedicate their time to assist in various programs, such as e a free grocery store, home delivery service and a drive-thru program. 

Stephanie Sisson, outreach coordinator for the food bank, explains the magnitude of their work and the far-reaching effects of donations. 

“We're serving about 5000 families every single week,” Sisson said. “I don't know how to explain the scale to most people. We would estimate, given the census data, that we are serving 16 to 20% of Whatcom County.”

The Turkey Trot’s collaborative efforts with the food bank highlight the altruistic nature of Bellingham’s running community, by participating in an event to help assist those in need and support a good cause while doing what they love. 

“For myself, as a volunteer coordinator and a race director, giving back to a sport and community that you love is the most rewarding,” Kwiatkowski said. “Those moments come during the often chaotic process of directing or volunteering. I stop myself for a minute and just watch people run with joy and determination on their faces as well as, yes, sometimes pain.”

According to the GBRC website, the top three male and female finishers will win prizes. Awards will be given to the youngest finisher, the oldest finisher, the fastest stroller and the best costume. 

Participants are encouraged to dress up in their favorite costumes, with those dressed as turkeys winning extra style points. The conditions for Saturday morning are expected to be sunny with temperatures around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Evan Riley

Evan Riley (he/him) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a third-year student at Western working towards his major in News/Editorial journalism. He has dreams of becoming a travel writer and is continually thinking about where he'll go next. 

You can reach him at

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