Race continues to stretch its legs

Visalia Emergency Aid Council’s Race Against Hunger is Thanksgiving morning in downtown Visalia

The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – Fifteen years ago Visalia’s food pantry took the first steps to creating a one-day event that could help with their mission to make sure no child goes hungry in the community. From its humble beginnings in 2005 at a supermarket parking lot with 250 participants, the “Race Against Hunger” has grown to over 5,300 participants comprised of businesses, civic organizations, families and friends. It has become the premiere advocacy event for alleviating hunger in Tulare County and the largest fundraiser for the Visalia Emergency Aid Council (VEAC).

“When I look out at over 5,000 people coming out to support their community, it is the most amazing feeling,” said Iris East, who has helped organize the event for the last 12 years.

East admits it was somewhat of a risk to have a running event on a day when people are looking forward to a eating and sitting, but just like a Thanksgiving meal, the run has a little something for everyone.

“Some people love to run, some just want to exercise before eating a large meal but everyone is helping to feed local families and children,” East said.

East works tirelessly recruiting and coordinating hundreds of volunteers each year to manage the Race Against Hunger, along with toy and food basket distributions to thousands of children during the holidays, while raising public awareness of hunger and poverty in Tulare County. The Race Against Hunger is now a family tradition for many locals who love the idea of giving back before filling up on an excess of food that could be seen as wasteful any other time of year. Those traditions include dressing up in festive wares, such as turkey hats, antlered headbands, and colorful clothes. The giving nature of the local community has helped build the event into the largest 5K in the Central Valley.

You can’t have Thanksgiving without dressing, and dressing up is part of the family traditions formed during the annual 5K run and 2-Mile Prediction Walk held each Thanksgiving morning. Photo courtesy of Roy Dressel Photography.

The race kicks off at 8 a.m. and is usually completed by 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28 at the corner of Main Street and Garden Street. The “Race Against Hunger” provides a large portion of the annual funding for the VEAC food pantry and day to day operations required to assist over 1,000 families each month. Partnering with like-minded social service agencies such as Family Services, Family HealthCare Network, CSET, Proteus, Community Food Bank, Foodlink and others, VEAC is able to offer critical assistance to hard-working families by providing food, clothing and household goods at little or no cost. East said 80% of the funds raised from the race go directly to the food pantry and 20% go toward assisting low income families with utilities, rent and fuel.

“It is only through the volunteer’s efforts and selflessness that VEAC can compassionately serve children and families in need throughout the year,” East said. 

If you haven’t registered yet, time is running out. The last to register for the race is tomorrow, Nov. 28. Adult 5k and 2 Mile Walk are both $35 while the 5k, 2 Mile Walk and Fun Run for children 12 and under is just $15. Children ages 4-10 are eligible to receive a free backpack from Dick’s Sporting Goods and free chocolate milks donated by California Dairies, Inc. Kaweah Delta HealthCare District is offering gloves to everyone who registers. To register, visit RunSignUp.com and search for Visalia Emergency Aid Council “Race Against Hunger” or find the link at www.veac.org. 

If you don’t want to run but still want to fight hunger in the community, you can also make donations directly to VEAC. Suggested donation amounts include Gravy ($25), Pumpkin ($50), Mashed Potatoes ($75), and Turkey ($100). $50 donations include a beanie, $75 donations include a beanie and scarf, and $100 donations include a beanie, scar and insulated mug. 

“It is only through the volunteer’s efforts and selflessness that VEAC can compassionately serve children and families in need throughout the year,” East said. 

If you haven’t registered yet, time is running out. The last to register for the race is tomorrow, Nov. 28. Adult 5k and 2 Mile Walk are both $35 while the 5k, 2 Mile Walk and Fun Run for children 12 and under is just $15. Children ages 4-10 are eligible to receive a free backpack from Dick’s Sporting Goods and free chocolate milks donated by California Dairies, Inc. Kaweah Delta HealthCare District is offering gloves to everyone who registers. To register, visit RunSignUp.com and search for Visalia Emergency Aid Council “Race Against Hunger” or find the link at www.VEAC.org. 

If you don’t want to run but still want to fight hunger in the community, you can also make donations directly to VEAC. Suggested donation amounts include Gravy ($25), Pumpkin ($50), Mashed Potatoes ($75), and Turkey ($100). $50 donations include a beanie, $75 donations include a beanie and scarf, and $100 donations include a beanie, scar and insulated mug. 

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