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Thanksgiving run continues to go the distance

11/15/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Racers begin the 4-mile Home Run for the Homeless during the 2010 event.
Photo: Krista Galloway
WEST AKRON — The need among the less fortunate that nonprofit Gennesaret Inc. serves continues to grow. But so does the organization’s Thanksgiving Day run/walk, which serves as the group’s only fundraiser.

The Home Run for the Homeless will take place Nov. 22 near and through Glendale Cemetery. The 1-mile fun run/walk will step off at 8:30 a.m., and the 4-mile run at 9 a.m. Organizers said Akron native and Olympic gold medal winner Butch Reynolds will be on hand to start the 4-mile run and participate in the 1-mile run.

This is the 21st year for the event, which has become a tradition for many in the Akron area, said Cuyahoga Falls resident Bob Dirgo, who started Gennesaret and the race with his wife, Mary.

“We’re hoping it will continue to get bigger,” Dirgo said. “We’re ahead of the registrations we were at this point last year, so that’s always a good sign.”

Last year, the 20th anniversary year for the run, attracted 4,000 people, he said.

“Every year it’s grown, even when we have nasty weather,” he said.

He said participants often share their positive experience with him.

“We’re always humbled and impressed by the comments we get,” he said. “People say they love the race. It’s a special gathering of folks on that day, and it’s not like something they’ve ever experienced. It makes us feel good that we are successful in accomplishing that.”

Dirgo said about 50 percent of Gennesaret’s budget is provided through the run’s proceeds. Gennesaret is an all-volunteer group that provides meals to up to 600 people a week at its Family Nutritional Center and also provides temporary housing for families in need.

“It’s the only fundraiser we do all year,” he said. “Our costs are very low because it’s all volunteer and most of the food is donated. We have minimal expenses, such as paper products, utilities and our building,”

Private donations and grants provide the rest of the funding for Gennesaret, Dirgo said.

He added that the organization continues to see a growing need for assistance among Akron’s poor.

“There seems to still be a significant need out there,” Dirgo said. “There’s probably a sense of greater desperation out there as well as need.”

But he added there are many success stories from those who have been helped in the past.

“One guy, our chief cook and bottle washer, used to come in to eat and now he almost runs the place,” Dirgo said.

Registration for the Home Run for the Homeless is under way at www.gennesaret.net. The 4-mile run is $14 online through Nov. 19, with family member discounts available. After that date, the 4-mile run is $20. The 1-mile run/walk is $2.

Race day-registration will take place at Gennesaret, 419 W. Exchange St. Some parking is available nearby, but Dirgo said there also is free parking at the Akron Children’s Hospital parking deck, 300 Locust St., with a free shuttle provided by Summa Health System.

Food is provided to runners following the race, and age group awards and prizes will be given. In addition, all participants will be entered into a drawing for door prizes.

For additional information, call 330-923-2222.

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