Oct. 30—When Hamilton YoungLives organizers first started the Thanksgiving 5K in 2015, they hoped it would be an annual holiday tradition.
The 5K started with 30 runners participating in "a little neighborhood jog" in Hamilton, raising funds for mentoring young teen mothers and assisting them and their children. Over the past seven years, the race has had more than 5,000 runners, had scores of volunteers in support roles, and topped $100,000 raised. In year eight, the organizers are expecting at least 2,000 runners.
The Meyer Brothers and Sons Hamilton Thanksgiving 5K for YoungLives has reached tradition status.
"I don't often take time to really think about it. It's powerful to see something grow," said Katie Powers, race director who's been with the race since the beginning. "It was just kind of a dream in a community that really didn't have much of a running following. There weren't many 5K that I knew of going on."
In year two of the race, Hamilton YoungLives had 12 times as many runners sign up, "and we kind of had a feeling it was going to become something."
That 360 participants in 2016 turned into nearly 540 in 2017, which grew to more than 700 in 2018 and topped 1,100 in 2019. Participation dipped in 2020 (still within the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic) with 740 runners, but in 2021, registrations jumped to 1,600.
Powers said she's in awe of how the community has responded, including sponsors of the race. More than 20, including the Journal-News, have financially supported the 2022 race that now traverses downtown Hamilton and German Village. The race starts and ends at Marcum Park.
"It's honestly been a huge blessing to be a part of; I can give credit to the Lord," said Powers, a co-founder of the race with K.K. Kwiat. "It's beyond anything I could do on my own. There's a team of people, of volunteers that have a passion for the ministry of YoungLives for teen moms, and for bringing the community together."
Hamilton YoungLives was started by Kwait and Mindee Callahan in 2011. It's part of the Young Life organization and is a non-denominational ministry for teen moms or pregnant teens (up to 19 years old) in the city. With the help of adult women serving as mentors, the organization builds positive peer relationships with young women by providing ongoing and reliable support.
"Hard work, along with a lot of prayers, I would say, has allowed the race to grow and continue to be a success," Powers said. "It's kind of shocking to think about 2,000 people."
Runners aren't just from Hamilton or Butler County, but from around the country, Powers said, as the fall holiday brings in a lot of out-of-town family and guests into the region.
The early-bird signup, where a person's T-shirt size can be guaranteed, is by Nov. 11, but people can sign up a half-hour before the start of the race on Thanksgiving Day (but T-shirt sizes can't be guaranteed).
To sign up for the race, visit bit.ly/YoungLives5K2022 to sign up. It's $30 per runner, though the price increases after the early bird deadline. People can participate virtually, and that's $30.
There is also the Kids Fun Run for those 10 years and younger, which is $10 with a T-shirt and free with no T-shirt.
HAMILTON THANKSGIVING DAY 5K FOR YOUNGLIVES
The annual Hamilton Thanksgiving Day 5K for YoungLives is set for 9 a.m. on Nov. 24 at Marcum Park in downtown.
Early-bird signup, where a person's T-shirt size can be guaranteed, is by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 11. The cost is $30 per participant. The price increases on Nov. 12, and people can sign up until 8:30 a.m. on race day, though T-shirt sizes can't be guaranteed.
Kids 10 and under can participate in the Fun Run, which is free to enter, but there is a $10 option that includes a race T-shirt.
To sign up, visit bit.ly/YoungLives5K2022.
The Journal-News is a gold sponsor of this event.