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By Lillian Boyd

In years past, the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce has organized the Turkey Trot, drawing crowds of thousands to “run the race before stuffing their face.”

This year, due to concerns and policies surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chamber has had to adjust the annual fundraiser to allow for social distancing and health safety precautions. Rather than holding the series of races in the Dana Point Harbor, as has been tradition, participants will instead “run the race at their own pace” and on their own terms.

In the 43 years that Turkey Trot has been held in Dana Point, the Chamber has partnered with nearly two dozen nonprofit organizations, including Laura’s House, the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, Pet Project Foundation and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9934 and others. This year, the partnering nonprofits are Family Assistance Ministries and Marine Corps League – South Coast Detachment.

“We take pride in supporting local South Orange County charities who directly impact our local community,” said Vickie McMurchie, executive director for the Chamber of Commerce. “This year, we’re going one step further and incorporating a food drive for FAM and a toy drive for MCL into our packet pick-up, as this year’s had a deep impact on the physical donations these organizations typically receive, in addition to the financial support.”

According to the Chamber, organizing an in-person race has cost an average of $200,000—some years bringing about 10,000 registrants. Despite significant cost savings to hosting the virtual event, there lies the obstacle of bringing in sponsors and large registration numbers to cover costs and raise money for the partnering charitable causes.

The Dana Point Turkey Trot will be a virtual event this year in which everyone can run at their own pace. Drumstick serves as the event’s mascot. Photo: Lillian Boyd

McMurchie says that she and the Chamber are nevertheless grateful to hold a race in any capacity this year and “keep the charity giving tradition alive.” The Chamber, like most nonprofit organizations across the globe, has had to pivot from traditional fundraising events and adjust in order to stay afloat.

“Most NGOs, the Chamber included, are working harder than ever (likely with a smaller staff or volunteer base) to raise nominal funds that will help sustain us, but we are in no way reaching the income levels we were used to pre-pandemic,” McMurchie said.

Family Assistance Ministries is a faith-based charitable nonprofit organization assisting those in need in Orange County with resources for food, shelter, and personalized supportive counsel and aid, helping clients bridge the gap from dependency to self-sufficiency.

FAM provides food, shelter, and client aid to tens of thousands in Orange County, in the form of assistance for utilities, transportation, medical, dental, and prescription drugs, as well as financial counseling, free income tax preparation and collaboration with other social services organizations to provide referrals and medical screenings.

The Marine Corps League – South Coast Detachment is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization. MCL’s mission is to take care of Marines and their families, whether they be deployed or stateside at Camp Pendleton. MCL also provides financial aid and food to the families of Active Duty cancer patients, sends care packages overseas to deployed Marines, and assists with welcome-home celebrations.

“By registering for this year’s Turkey Trot, not only will you be keeping a beloved community tradition alive for years to come, but you will be contributing much-needed funds to our deserving partners who work hard to provide support and services to individuals and families in need,” McMurchie said.

A $25 registration offers a 2020 medal, race shirt, virtual goody bag with giveaways and vouchers and donates a portion of your registration to the partnered charitable causes. Drive-thru packet pick-up will be conducted in the Dana Point Harbor on Saturday, November 21, and Sunday, November 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit turkeytrot.com for more information on registration, FAM and MCL.

Lillian Boyd
Lillian Boyd is the senior editor for Picket Fence Media and city editor for Dana Point Times. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Her work experience includes interviewing incarcerated individuals in the Los Angeles County jails, an internship at the Pentagon covering U.S. Army news as well as reporting and anchoring for a local news radio station in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @Lillianmboyd and follow Dana Point Times at @danapointtimes.

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