Thousands of North State residents gathered in Bidwell Park this morning for what has become a Chico tradition. Rick Carhart braved the crowds and brings us the story of the eighth annual "Run For Food".
They came in all sizes. They came in costume. They came together as families and friends.
And they kept coming. In fact, while people were still making their way to the starting line... the winners were already finishing the 5k run that is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Jesus Center.
Bill Such says, "it's now a family event. I don't know any other event in Chico that will bring in 5000 people to come out Thanksgiving morning, so from that standpoint it's a blessing for all of us."
5,019 people to be exact... the largest crowd in the history of this event. and the road was packed from edge to edge and beyond.
Mandi Olson says, "I feel like a warrior... It was good, everyone gave it their all and having a good time. Everyone's dressed up and supporting each other."
The serious runners finished in under 20 minutes... but for most of those out here on this cool, sunny morning... it was about being together and having fun.
Runners Angela Bruening and Jill Ramsey say, "we decided we should get in the spirit of the day... She's before and I'm after."
And celebrating what Thanksgiving is all about.
Mandi says, "I'm thanful for my family and being able to get up and do this...
Angela says, "having fun, raising money for the homeless, and getting some exercise before we overeat."
The Jesus Center serves 110,000 meals each year.
Bill says, "those whose lives are a mess: drug addicts, who come out of prison looking for a way to be productive, we get to know them through a meal, and we help them make the next step in their lives."
And Bill Such, the director of the Jesus Centerknows it's the people out here today who make his mission possible.
Bill says, "there's a river of community feeling, this is good for us to support, the Jesus Center, as well as enjoy thanksgiving. That's what I'm thankful for."
Organizers say the money raised from this year's Run For Food will fund about six months worth of meals.