Turkey Trot Classic benefits programs at Eagle Ridge Institute

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has initiated a goal for Oklahomans to lose one million pounds by the end of 2008. The Turkey Trot Classic, which will be held on Thanksgiving Day, is not only a positive step toward that goal, but also important to overall good health.

This annual event, sponsored by Eagle Ridge Institute, will be held at Stars and Stripes Park in Oklahoma City. The race includes an 8-kilometer run, 1-mile fun run/walk and the Little Gobbler Dash, which is free for youth up to 14.

"We expect around 1,000 runners, which is what we had last year," said John Mayfield, executive director and co-founder of Eagle Ridge Institute. "The race is ranked as the third best race in Oklahoma, behind the Memorial Marathon and the Redbud Classic," said Mayfield. "It is quite a tradition, and we are proud to be the developers of this race. The event is projected to earn $15,000, which will go toward programs."

The Turkey Trot Classic, now in its ninth year, is pegged as a family event. The mission of Eagle Ridge is to promote healthy lifestyles through education, prevention, intervention and treatment. The funds from the race support a number of programs offered by the institute, including the Family Treatment Center, which serves women and children struggling with drug and alcohol addictions and from domestic abuse.

Located in Guthrie, the program is a 12-to-18-month plan that many times ends with the women obtaining jobs, a healthier lifestyle and a reunion with their children.

"We were the first in the state for a women and children treatment center," said Mayfield. "It is highly successful."

The Turkey Trot Classic is sanctioned and certified by the United States of America Track and Field Association, which is the national governing body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the U.S. This affiliation with the national association attracts runners from around the country, as well as within the state.

Every year, Ron Kuykendall, an Oklahoma native, runs the Turkey Trot Classic. He runs in 40 races a year, including all the local Oklahoma races.

There are numerous benefits to a Thanksgiving Day race such as this, said Kuykendall, having been a passionate runner since 1983.

"For one thing," he said, "it is a holiday race and most of my running friends are there, too. Then I go enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner."

The Turkey Trot Classic is in need of volunteers for race day. A variety of duties are available, such as assisting with registration, parking and passing out water.

Volunteers are used for most of the event, so more of the proceeds can go toward programs such as Eagle's Wings, which works with inner-city youth to introduce them to a variety of hobbies, while teaching them an assortment of skills, including music, chess and basketball. On race day, donations for programs will be accepted and appreciated.

"We've been around 23 years," said Mayfield. "We are making a difference."

The race will be held regardless of the weather conditions, and the awards ceremony will be conducted at the Star and Stripes Pavilion at approximately 10:30 a.m. Participants who register early will receive a free T-shirt.

Runners can register for the event at Eagle Ridge Institute, 601 N.E. 63rd, or by visiting www.signmeup.com/61373.

For volunteer opportunities or more information, call 840-1359. "Gina A. Dabney

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