By Stephen Seitz
Thursday, Nov. 24 at 10 a.m.—WOODSTOCK — We all have something to be thankful for, and at Zack’s Place, they’re thankful for the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot.
“We started the trot 10 years ago as a fundraiser for our center,” said Dail Frates, the center’s founder and executive director. “Everybody who comes here comes here for free. So we have a big, big fundraiser.”
Zack’s Place, based in Woodstock, allows those with special needs to express themselves through art, music, dance, literature and athletics. It is named after Frates’ stepson, Zack, who suffered from cerebral palsy, and died suddenly in 2011. Zack’s Place came about because there seemed to be no future for him after high school.
“Zack loved school, but there were no opportunities for him after graduation,” Frates said. “We looked around, and couldn’t find a model for what we wanted to do. So we went ahead anyway. We get no government funding. We raise every penny.”
The need to raise money led to the Turkey Trot, first held in 2007.
“In the first year, 200 people participated and we raised $12,000,” Frates said. “Last year, we had 1,500 people and raised about $67,000, which is about a quarter of our budget. We want it to be a family event and get the community running. It’s an opportunity to do something for somebody else and feel good on Thanksgiving. You get exercise, and help our non-profit.”
At the time of this interview, Frates said registrants were up 30 percent from 2015.
“I like to do better each year,” she said. “I’d like to get 2,000 people. If we do that, we can have more programs and we can take field trips. We can do what we do better.”
There’s a little extra incentive this year, Frates added.
“Everyone who signs up is registered for a prize,” she said. “Ibex (the White River sportswear company) has donated sports clothing.”
Frates said a lot of people don’t really know how to act around those with certain disabilities. Having Zack’s Place in the community helps those with special needs to interact with the community at large. Frates said no one should feel uncomfortable.
“They don’t want anyone to feel bad,” Frates said. “They would like someone to say hi. A lot of people would like it if you just talked to them. Communicating with people is what Zack loved. The people here in town are comfortable around those with special needs.”
The race takes place at the Woodstock Elementary School at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. There will be a band playing, as well as coffee, tea and hot chocolate. The route goes through Woodstock village, up towards Billings Farm, around Mountain Avenue, back to the town green, and ending at the elementary school. There will be an award ceremony after the race.
For more information and pre-registration visit, www.zacksplacevt.org.
Photo courtesy of Zack’s Place
Runners pack the streets of downtown Woodstock during the annual Zack’s Place Turkey Trot held on Thanksgiving day each year. Last year’s event raised $67,000 for Zack’s Place, a non-profit organization that offers programing for those with special needs.