Every year, neonatal doctor Karmen Parks and husband Jeff, a USC Verdugo Hills Hospital anesthesiologist, request time off at Thanksgiving. Given their busy work schedules, the La Cañada couple want to ensure there's one good family celebration on the books.
And every year, the Parks rise bright and early on Thanksgiving morning and head to Memorial Park to participate in what's become an annual tradition for them and several members of their extended family — the Thanksgiving Day Run and Food Drive, presented by the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge.
"Everybody comes down to celebrate Thanksgiving at our house every year," said Karmen Parks, who also serves on the nonprofit's board of directors. "The whole Thanksgiving tradition starts with the Thanksgiving run."
The 24th annual event, also known as the Turkey Trot, features a professionally timed 5K adult run/walk starting at 8:30 a.m., with a one-mile route for kids 12 and under following at 9:30 a.m. Registration proceeds directly support the Community Center and its programs.
Maureen Bond, the center's executive director, says the race continues to grow year after year, with more than 1,600 runners participating in last year's event. This year, to help keep finish times straight and let participants share results with others via social media, all runners in the adult race will receive a timing chip — the same technology used in the L.A. Marathon.
"I can go online and see how my friend is doing, and I can see where he or she is at in the race," Bond said of the chip technology, which lets trackers post online updates in real time. "And the results will come back faster."
Bond said the old accordion folder registration method and handwritten bibs will be replaced with a computer system that assigns numbers when participants come to collect their gear. This allows online pre-registration to continue right up until the early morning hours of race day.
Deputies from the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station will be on hand at Memorial Park to collect nonperishable food donations for their annual winter holiday charity events, which help supplement the dinner tables of more than 150 area families in need.
All runners will receive free event T-shirts, which Karmen Parks says her family members wear for the rest of the day as they prepare their Thanksgiving meal and sit down to eat together.
"It's definitely become a family tradition for us to run in the Turkey Trot and continue our holiday from there," she said, estimating 13 participants, ranging in age from 1 to 72, will attend this year's run. "Rain or shine, we'll be there."
FYI: The 24th annual Thanksgiving Run and Food Drive takes place Nov. 23 at La Cañada's Memorial Park, 1327 Foothill Blvd. Advanced registration costs $35 for adults and $15 for children under 12. Those who sign up at the race can register for $40 per adult or $20 per child. To register, visit cclcf.org and click on the "Thanksgiving Run" tab at the top.