It’s a season of giving; giving back to the community, that is. This holiday season marks a milestone for a local favorite fundraiser. Combining charity, cardio, and Christmas, the Reindeer Run for the Children celebrates its twentieth year in Canton.
The Service League of Cherokee County organized the Reindeer Run to support local children in need, and its twentieth anniversary is expected to be the biggest one yet.
The race originally began as a smaller early spring run in downtown Canton with a few more than a hundred participants. As the race grew in popularity, the Service League scaled it up, moved it to December, and transformed it into a holiday-themed race. More recently it relocated to Etowah River Park. This year the Service League anticipates around five hundred participants.
Registration fees and T-shirt sales raise funds the Service League gives to children in need. Non-runners are encouraged to register as Santa’s Helpers and purchase T-shirts.
“The money raised is used in the springtime for scholarship programs and special projects,” notes Kelly Scott, chairperson for the race. “We also use the funds to help with basic needs for schoolchildren and their families, such as medical bills, housing, [and] utilities.”
The Service League organizes several events throughout the year. While the Reindeer Run proceeds go toward springtime projects, the money raised from the league’s annual arts and crafts festival, Riverfest, goes toward helping children throughout the holiday season.
The Service League also encourages nearby schools and local cross-country and track programs to participate. A $1,000 award is given to the school with the highest number of participants. Last year Cherokee High School took home the prize. Additionally the Service League features a school chorus that performs the national anthem and sings holiday carols to cheer on the runners. In most recent years the Avery Elementary School Choral Program performed under the direction of music teacher David Boggs. The Reindeer Run has also seen guest appearances from jolly Old Saint Nick himself.
This year carolers will stand at the mile markers to keep runners in the festive spirit, because of the new longer race. Runners can participate in the newly introduced 10K as well as the 5K (a Peachtree Road Race qualifier) or the One-Mile Fun Run. The 5K includes a walking option and typically has the most runners of the three races.
On the day of the race, runners clad in red and green wear reindeer antler headbands and Santa hats. The crowd is full of people from across the county of all ages and levels of training. Awards are presented to the overall top three males and females, the top male and female masters, and top three males and females in each age division for the 5K and the 10K. Fun Run finishers each receive a commemorative ribbon.
“I love events like the Reindeer Run because people of all different ages, backgrounds, and running experiences get to spend their time together for the same goal of completing the race and supporting a good cause,” remarks Seth Grogan, a previous winner from Cherokee High School.
“Most events don’t last twenty years, so we are very thankful for all the community’s support to help grow our event,” comments Kelly. “With the continued growth of the county and help from our generous sponsors, we have been able to help more children each year.”
With the addition of the 10K and carolers lined up to spread holiday cheer, the twentieth year of the Reindeer Run will set a memorable milestone.
Registration is available online through November 29 and walk-up registrations are welcome on the morning of the race or during package pickup. Rain or shine, the December 2 Reindeer Run Fun Run kicks off at 8:00 a.m. at Etowah River Park, followed by the 5K and 10K at 8:30 a.m. The Service League hopes for a tremendous turnout and wishes all participants a holly jolly time!
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Makenzie Bird is a Cherokee County resident and intern with Enjoy Cherokee. She is the editor of Cherokee High School’s student newspaper and a communications alumni of the Governor’s Honors Program. In the community, Makenzie is involved with youth leadership opportunities with the school board and the public library system.