Thanksgiving run raises $20,000 for Easthampton Community Center

  • Co-organizers of the Give ’Em The Bird 5K Thanksgiving Run, from left, Pat Brough, Eric Poulin and Tom Raffensperger on Wednesday present a symbolic check for $20,000 to Robin Bialecki, executive director of the Easthampton Community Center. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Published: 11/24/2017 1:40:46 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Runners and walkers took over the Manhan Rail Trail on Thursday morning for the “Give ‘Em The Bird 5K Thanksgiving Run,” breaking records for turnout and proceeds.

The race raised $20,000 for the Easthampton Community Center, to be used for turkey and chicken as well as other fixings for that organization’s Thanksgiving Day meal in 2018.

The race was so packed, organizers had to turn people away, according to Robin Bialecki, the center’s executive director.

“We were at capacity,” Bialecki said. “We want everything to be as safe as possible.”

Over 500 people participated in the events, which also included a 2K walk, Bialecki said. The 5K course started at Millside Park and headed north on the bike trail, then Clapp Street, Fort Hill, the Oxbow branch of the bike trail and back to Millside Park.

Chris Vayda, 16, of Southampton placed first overall, finishing the race in 17 minutes, 22 seconds. Max Dickerman, 21, of Cody, Wyoming, followed with a time of 17:45 and placed first in the division for males ages 17 to 29.

Kristopher Houle, 33, of Plymouth, topped the male 30-39 division with a time of 19:29, and John Thorpe, 46, of Northampton, finished first in the male 40-49 division at 21:15. Brian St. Jean, 57, of Russell was first in the male 50-59 division at 21:21, and Chris Granger, 60, of Bahama, North Carolina, was first in the male 60-69 division at 24:36. David Martula, 72, of Hadley, was the only person in the division for men over 70 and finished in 27:18.

Amber Sayer, 31, of Westfield, was the top female finisher and fourth overall at 18:59. Delaney Marek, 14, of Westhampton, placed first in the female 1-16 division at 21:30. Maggie Mahoney, 21, of Florence, topped the female 17-29 division at 19:25. Chelynn Tetreault, 42, of Florence, was first in the female 40-49 division at 22:26. Cindy Mahoney, 52, of Florence, was first in the female 50-59 division at 23:09. Annette Szczygiel, 67, of Easthampton, was first in the female 60-69 division at 28:02.

The race was started in 2015 by Pat Brough, Tom Raffensperger and Eric Poulin. The event raised $10,000 in 2015 and $15,000 in 2016.

Since the race started, Bialecki said she has been able to acquire twice as many turkeys than before the fundraising event.

This year, the community center distributed 800 turkeys and 100 chickens, along with stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and more for those in need. The center fed more than 3,500 people through its pantry program. Bialecki said she delivered the last turkey of the season at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

With enough money for hundreds of turkeys and fixings, Bialecki said the funds also will be used to support people during next year’s Christmas season.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at

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