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Tuesday, Mar 26, 2019
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FishHawk Turkey Trot keeps growing

LITHIA - More than 1,700 people took to the streets of FishHawk Ranch on Thanksgiving morning for the fourth-annual FishHawk Turkey Trot. Some ran, some walked, while others simply lined the roads in support. Eric Hall finished first among the men, covering the 5 kilometer course in 16:35. Arlene Mangum was first across the finish line for the women, at 19:50. Hundreds more took part in the one-mile fun run. The event has grown in size every year thanks in large part because of the efforts of race director Leda Eaton.
Eaton started the race in 2009 with small intentions. At the time, two of Eaton's four children were members of the Newsome High School cross country team, and she wanted a way to give them community service hours. The plan was to put on the race and use the proceeds to help local food banks. "People were saying we might get 150 runners" the first year), Eaton said. More than 450 runners showed up for the inaugural race. Knowing she had already outgrown the FishHawk Sports Complex, where the first race was held, Eaton held the second event at Newsome High. Almost 1,000 runners showed up for that race. With so many runners showing up, Eaton saw an opportunity to give back even more to the community. "We said 'Why not bring food back into our community and start our own food bank?'" she said. It was from there that "Seeds Of Hope" was formed in 2011. The organization provides food and clothing to families in need on a weekly basis and is funded solely by the proceeds collected from the race. The number of volunteers has also grown with the event. Eaton says she had six student volunteers help her with the inaugural race. On Thanksgiving, Eaton estimated she had about 100 volunteers. Among the volunteers was Colby Blackburn, a sophomore at Newsome. This year's race was Colby's first time helping out. He assisted with stinging together some of the award medals, handing out packets and passing out water and bananas. "A lot of my friends volunteered and ran the race," he said. "I enjoy helping out with it." Brothers John and Eli Davenport, who both go to Randall Middle School, helped out with the kids races that took place after the 5K. "I remember people showing me where to go when I was young, and I wanted to give back," John said. "I just wanted to help out," said Eli. It's a lot easier to volunteer than it is to run the race." The race, which is now held at the Publix plaza in FishHawk, figures to get even bigger next year. But no matter how big the race gets, Eaton doesn't want to lose sight of why she started the event in the first place. "It has just been a blessed event," she said. "I hope the focus remains on the meaningful community service hours."

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