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Thanksgiving Day is Virginia Run Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving Day will soon be here, and that means it's just about time for the 15th Annual Virginia Run Turkey Trot. The 5K race and 2K walk will kick off that morning, Thursday, Nov. 27, at 8 a.m.

For the 12th year in a row, proceeds will go to Life with Cancer, INOVA Health System's nonprofit program for cancer patients and their families. And those involved with the race are glad to help out.

"The vast majority of the people in Virginia Run have lost a loved one to cancer and had it touch their lives directly," explained race coordinator Dominic De Vincenzo. "That's why we all participate."

After last year's event, Turkey Trot was able to donate a record $33,500 to Life with Cancer; this year's goal is $35,000. The race also drew more than 1,500 runners and 750 walkers — including De Vincenzo and his two daughters, ages 15 and 11, who participate every year.

THE RACE is usually run in honor of someone from the Virginia Run community who's succumbed to the disease during the year. But this year, for the first time, cancer stayed away from the neighborhood so the 2003 Turkey Trot is being dedicated to cancer survivors.

Registration is available online at www.runwashington.com. Entry fees by Nov. 21 are $18 for runners and $13 for walkers. Afterward, they're $20 and $15, respectively.

The race is USTA-certified and part of the Racepacket series. The course begins and ends at the Virginia Run Community Center, at Wetherburn Court, off Route 29 and Pleasant Valley Road in Centreville.

Prizes go to the speediest two males and females overall and in Virginia Run. Top runners in age categories also receive prizes, and all participants get commemorative T-shirts plus raffle tickets for doorprizes.

Major sponsor is Carteret Mortgage Corp., followed by Luck Stone Corp. and Mitchell Eye Institute. De Vincenzo also acknowledged the generosity of Glory Days Grill which, each year, donates gift certificates as doorprizes, as well as Virginia Run's own Greg Richter who contributes many of the raffle prizes.

Bagel Buddies and Deer Park will provide bagels and water, respectively, for the participants. Giant Foods will contribute bananas, and Cox Farms will donate apples and loan one of its hay wagons to be used as the announcing stand. And Life with Cancer is grateful to everyone who makes the event possible.

"We rely so much on organizations like Virginia Run's Turkey Trot to run all our programs," said Virginia Run resident Liz Bredthauer, the special-events consultant with Life with Cancer. "They're free to people with cancer and their friends and family."

SHE SAID the program's children's coordinator, Jennifer Eckert, offers grief support and counseling. And whether the child or a family member is a patient, children participate in various activities geared to ease their pain and help them better deal with the situation.

For example, children ages 5-12 would do art therapy, making photo collages of their affected loved ones or keepsake boxes of special remembrance items. "When the children are with each other, it's easier for them to express themselves," said Bredthauer. They realize they're not alone and aren't the only ones whose lives have been changed by cancer.

"That's why this children's program is so important," said Bredthauer. "Jennifer tries to give the children as much of an understanding about cancer and what's going on, as possible, so the children don't feel isolated from the family member who has it. It's just amazing how this program can help the children through this."

Teens, 13-18, who have family members with cancer, have dinner, hang out together and have fun with other teen-agers. Said Bredthauer: "They'll meet with others who understand what it's like to go through cancer — the changes — and they'll discuss their feelings."

Programs are also offered for adults with cancer. They include spirituality, healthy nutrition, yoga, meditation, relaxation and imagery, art and theater. And, added Bredthauer, "We also get the families together for social/recreational activities, such as picnics and other outings." For more information, see www.lifewithcancer.org.

"Turkey Trot means so much to us because that's how we can keep these programs going," said Bredthauer. "We hope there's a good turnout. And it's so nice that families get together on Thanksgiving Day — not only to support the community — but to support the organization, as well."