On most days Bob and Mary Dirgo, the heart and soul of Akron’s Gennesaret Family Nutrition Center, and an army of volunteers can be found stirring pots of soup for the homeless.
These days they’re also busy stirring up excitement for the 22nd annual, enormously popular Gennesaret-sponsored “Home Run for the Homeless” Thanksgiving morning.
Gennesaret Inc. — funded entirely from grants and individual donations with no government help — is a nonprofit mega-soup kitchen with a clothing and grocery distribution outreach, tutoring program and provider of transitional housing to parents and their children.
The race event attracts entire families as runners and walkers, starting with the one-mile fun run/walk at 8:30 a.m. and the four-mile Home Run at 9 a.m. Akron native Butch Reynolds, an Olympic track gold medalist and former world-record holder, will be on hand for the kickoff.
The course starts and finishes in front of Gennesaret’s Family Nutrition Center, 419 W. Exchange St., winding through Glendale Cemetery, with the competitive race boasting an electronic timing system.
“On race day, many free door prizes, including gift certificates from popular retailers and restaurants, will be given away to runners,” Gennesaret spokesman Patrick Kunklier wrote. “Raffle tickets will be sold for unique prizes.
“The top three male and female finishers in 12 age divisions will win awards. These first-, second- and third-place finishers will also receive a turkey, pumpkin pie and jam, respectively. First-place male and female finishers in the master (40-49) and grandmaster (50+) age divisions will win awards too.
“Gold-level sponsors are Vertical Runner running-shoe store; Suburban Maintenance and Construction; Summa Health System; Pepsi; Main Street Gourmet; North Akron Savings Bank; Salt Fork Lodge & Conference Center; Giant Eagle; Mustard Seed Market and Cafe; Papa Joe’s Iacomini’s; Maggiano’s Little Italy; The Cheesecake Factory; Outback Steakhouse; and Cracker Barrel … Free fruit, baked goods and refreshments will be served …
“The first 1,200 preregistered four-mile runners receive a free giveaway … Runners also are encouraged to bring like-new toys, gently used running shoes and blankets for needy families.”
Last year’s event drew nearly 4,000 registered runners and walkers of all ages, some of whom travel great distances to be there.
Registration is from 7:15 to 8:45 a.m. Online fee is $14 until Monday for individuals, $10 per person as a family rate. After Monday, the fee is $20. The one-mile fun run is $2.
Registration is available at www.gennesaret.net.
Pre-race registration and packet pickup is 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Vertical Runner, 112 N. Main St., Hudson, and noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Gennesaret. For more information, please call 330-309-7999.
Akron police will be on hand to regulate traffic.
“Gennesaret has no paid staff but has about 350 volunteers and serves on average 600 hot meals a week,” Kunklier noted.
“All race proceeds go directly to serving those in dire financial straits through the Family Nutritional Center and family housing apartments.”
Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or firstname.lastname@example.org