When the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot began in 2017, parents in the North Shore Elementary PTA knew it would be popular, but they had no idea how popular. That first race was limited to 500 runners and quickly filled to capacity. In its second year, having become an official, timed 5k co-sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg, the race tripled in size. The event drew so many runners that organizers had to shut down registration more than a week before the race.
“Our course was mainly sidewalks that first year,” recalls Amber Brinkley, who chaired the first two events. “Then last year we closed some roads, and really grew in size, and the atmosphere was amazing. It was such a great way to start Thanksgiving morning.”
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has been the race’s presenting sponsor since its inception, and is on board for the third year, which planners expect to be even larger than last year. A slightly altered route, featuring completely closed streets, will allow the race to expand to up to 2,500 runners, but organizers caution that they don’t have visions of anything like the tens of thousands that flock to Thanksgiving Day races in Clearwater and Tampa.
“We are proud of being a small, local, ‘hometown’ style event” said 2019 event chair Monica Kile, “We want to always begin and end the race at North Shore Elementary School in order to highlight the great things happening in Pinellas County schools. We are also conscious of not over-burdening our neighbors or local police with a large event on a holiday. This is about community.”
That community has made news for rallying around North Shore Elementary. Anxious parents were looking for an alternative to crossing their fingers in Pinellas County’s complex school lottery system. They found an unheralded but outstanding school with staff and teachers eager to work with parents and volunteers to bring enhancements. Funds from the Coffee Pot Turkey Trot support a diverse mix of in-school programs from literacy initiatives, anti-bullying, teacher supplies and training, as well as one-hour after school classes including yoga, Mad Science, soccer, coding, art, book club and drama.
Parents have also engaged the local business community, and it shows on the back of the race shirt, with logos from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Leaven Law, Wallace Welch and Willingham, Auto Owners Insurance and many other businesses in the school’s zone.
Leaders at schools across the district are emulating North Shore’s model of community engagement.
PTA President Heather Leon is putting her fourth child through Pinellas public schools and sees the impact. “We’re funding things that aren’t in the school budget. These small amounts have big impacts in different areas. We can send a teacher to advanced training in the summer, and they come back and pass what they learn to their colleagues. And our enhancements to the classroom and after school are adding to the community feel of North Shore.”
The 2019 Coffee Pot Turkey Trot is on Thanksgiving Day, November 28 at 7:45am. Registration is $30 until November 3rd when the price goes up to $35 for adults – price is always $15 for children.