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First-ever 'Turkey Day 5K' on Nov. 22 will benefit Families Forever

On your mark, get set, go!

Runners who are looking for a way to lessen the guilt over consuming all those Thanksgiving dinner calories, registration is now open for the inaugural Turkey Day 5K in Lake Park.

Organized by Lake Park-Audubon High School alumni Jacqueline Ballard Vranicar, the event is being held to benefit the Families Forever Scholarship Fund.

The run will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22; registrations will be accepted the day of the race, beginning at 8:30 a.m. inside the Lake Park American Legion (which is where the run will begin).

Each participant will receive a free sweatshirt with the event logo as part of the entry fee, which is a suggested free-will donation of $25, Vranicar said.

"I've been a pretty active runner, and I knew I was going to be at my dad's place (in Lake Park) for Thanksgiving, so I started searching the area for a 'Turkey Trot' or similar event that weekend," she said.

Though such Thanksgiving weekend events are abundant in the Twin Cities, Vranicar couldn't find a run happening in the lakes area.

"All of them I found were happening the weekend before," she explained. "So I thought, if there isn't one, why not host one myself?"

All proceeds from the Turkey Day 5K will go directly to Families Forever, Vranicar said.

The scholarship fund was established six years ago by Vranicar's aunt, Peggy Stellmach, in memory of Mary Ballard -- Peggy's sister, and Jacqueline's mother -- who passed away in March of 2006 after battling stomach cancer.

"It means a lot to us, and to our family," Vranicar said of the scholarship fund.

"My mom was worried about my little sister not remembering her after she died," Vranicar said. "She was 5 when mom died, so we (herself and Peggy) thought, how can we keep her memory alive?"

That first August after she died, Stellmach organized a Garden Quilt Show & Tea Party to raise money for the scholarship fund. It's been held every August since then.

The money raised through the event is used to provide two annual scholarships for young women from the Lake Park area.

One scholarship goes to a graduating LP-A senior, and the other to a Miss Northwest Scholarship Pageant candidate.

"I used to be very involved (in the Miss Northwest pageant), and competed for Miss Minnesota," Vranicar said. "My mom and I really enjoyed that experience. She thought it provided such an avenue for young women to grow and become productive."

Mary Ballard was also a firm believer in post-secondary education for women, she added.

"My mom was such a proponent for women being successful," Vranicar said, "so one scholarship goes to a young woman who wants to continue her education past high school."

This year, a $500 scholarship will go to the Miss Northwest candidate, and a $1,000 scholarship to the graduating LP-A senior, said Peggy Stellmach.

The amount of the annual scholarships depends on how much is raised by the quilt show, said Vranicar, and now by the 5K run, which she hopes to make an annual event.

Because this is the inaugural event, Vranicar said she doesn't expect it to draw a huge crowd, but "I just want to raise a little money, have some fun and hopefully grow it a little more every year."

To register in advance for the run, please visit the website, and do a search for "Families Forever Turkey Day 5K." Details on the Families Forever Scholarship Fund are also available at

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454