Nearly 1,400 people donned a numbered bib and ran through the streets of Avon Thanksgiving morning in the 8th Annual Turkey Dash 5K Run/Walk at .
The event has become a major fundraiser for the Karen P. Nakon Breast Cancer Foundation in Avon, race director Sharon Lerch said.
“In past years, we’ve raised as much as $30,000,” she said, adding the organization won’t know this year’s total until next week.
The overall winner was 40-year-old Fred Kieser of Cleveland, with a time of 15:28.3. The first-place finisher in the female division was Melissa Rittenhouse of Sheffield Lake, with a time of 18:59.6.
“I had to do my workout today anyways, so I figured why not come do this,” said Rittenhouse, 35, who also finished first among females last year. “Now I get to go home and enjoy Thanksgiving.”
Participants of all ages came out Thursday, including Lakewood’s McGuire family.
“It’s a great way to start Thanksgiving,” said mom Eileen, 41. She and her sons Patrick, 13, and Liam, 11, were running together in their third race.
On the other end of the spectrum, Avon resident Jim Turpin, 64, said he has participated in the Turkey Dash every year since 2005, and this is the 10th race he’s competed in this year.
“I try to do as many of these cancer benefit runs that I can,” he said.
The Turkey Dash was started in 2004 by friends of Nakon – who lived in the Red Tail neighborhood and was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant with her third child – as a way to honor her after her death in 2003.
Excluding this year’s money, the Nakon Foundation has raised more than $76,000 through the Turkey Dash, and the event now accounts for nearly 20 percent of the organization’s annual fundraising, said Stacey Rusher, an administrator at the foundation.
That money is used to provide direct, need-based financial assistance through grants to women undergoing breast cancer treatments. Rusher said the organization has given more than $500,000 in grants to more than 400 women in northeast Ohio since 2002.