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Popular All-Ages Race Benefits Wheeler Mission

Photography Provided

This Thanksgiving Day why not help to increase awareness for a worthy cause, while simultaneously increasing your own appetite with some exercise before loading up on turkey?

The 17th annual Drumstick Dash, benefiting Wheeler Mission, will take place in Broad Ripple at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, and the race event has grown from more than 1,300 participants in its first year back in 2003 to about 20,000 last year. Wheeler Marketing Director Brian Crispin says the organization expects to reach that number again this year, which is Wheeler’s 125th year in operation.

In 2003 Wheeler Mission Chief Development Officer Steve Kerr had been trying to drum up a fundraising idea that would serve as the signature annual event for Wheeler, which helps the homeless and disadvantaged with meals, temporary shelter and various programs. While at a Thanksgiving Day race with his family in Ohio, Kerr realized how fun it could be for Hoosiers in Central Indiana to have a similar race to benefit Wheeler, and once he realized there was no existing Thanksgiving Day race in Indy, he got to work.

“Steve got together with a couple local businesses and the first year was a big success,” Crispin says. “The Drumstick Dash is now our biggest fundraiser of the year by far and has helped us grow.”

The all-ages race includes 4.6-mile and 2.75-mile courses in Broad Ripple kicking off at 9 a.m., as well as a Lil’ Gobblers Run for kids 12 and under at 10:15 a.m. Attendees can enjoy live entertainment on Broad Ripple Avenue prior to the race and a group of Fun Patrol volunteers will be amongst participants mid-race handing out goodies.

“The best part is that this has always been kind of a quirky event – people dress up, we’ve given out post-race turkey dogs and omelets at certain races over the years, and people are always dancing,” Crispin says. “Each year we always try to make it different and fun, and the idea from the beginning was to not do what everyone else does with their race.”

Now the second-largest race in Indiana behind the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, the Drumstick Dash has grown to become the second-biggest Thanksgiving Day race in the U.S., and it’s now a top-50 timed running event in the country as of 2018, according to Crispin.

“I think it’s very cool how big it’s gotten since it’s still owned and operated today by a homeless shelter,” Crispin says. “We have vendors who help, and there are usually more than 1,300 volunteers who come out, and beyond that, it’s the Wheeler staff operating this nationally recognized event.”

This year everyone who registers will receive their own fundraising page for a chance to further help Wheeler Mission. Those who raise at least $250 will have their entry fee refunded down to one penny and can opt to have their registration packet mailed directly to their residence for free.

In 2014, Wheeler began the #OuttaTownDashAround, which allows those who can’t attend, or who prefer to run in their own neighborhood, to participate virtually by joining a Drumstick Dash satellite location and take part in a photo submission contest.

“As the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to rise, the event has helped us continue to have a stable base of donations to help us continue to serve those people,” Crispin adds. “We don’t take any government funding, so we rely on the community to keep our doors open and grow when we need to grow. Last year alone we served about 367,000 meals, and we have nine locations now. The Drumstick Dash has been a big part of what we’re doing.”

17th Annual Drumstick Dash

When: Thursday, November 28

Where: Broad Ripple Village (race begins on Broad Ripple Avenue, east of the former Broad Ripple High School)

Registration info: Visit drumstickdash.org for full pricing and an online registration page. Registrants can visit the event Expo at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Harvest Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 27 for race packet pickup (including official long-sleeved event shirt and race bib), or have their packet mailed directly to their home or business. *Note there will be no race day registration.

Event proceeds benefit Wheeler Mission. For additional information on Wheeler’s services and programs, go to wheelermission.org.

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