Turkey Trot to benefit homeless Waco ISD students

A Baylor student runs the Bear Trail Tuesday afternoon. Students are encouraged to participate in the Central Texas Turkey Trot at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Brazos Park East. Photo credit: Dayday Wynn

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

The 11th annual Central Texas Turkey Trot this Saturday will be put on by Altrusa of the Brazos in order to benefit The Cove, an organization that has been open for less than a month but has already made a profound impact on the community by taking in homeless students for a few hours a day.

“We would love to see a nice Baylor contingent of runners out there,” said Sarah Bird, co-chair of the Central Texas Turkey Trot and an active member of Altrusa International. “As far as Baylor’s mission being the Christian mission, this would be something students would feel good about, coming out and exercising while supporting a worthwhile cause.”

Bird said the Central Texas Turkey Trot has always been held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Since last year was the 10th anniversary, a 10K portion was added to the race in addition to the 5K portion. Both races start at 9 a.m. rain or shine at Brazos Park East on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The Waco Striders will help time the race. The first place winner wins a 12-pound turkey, and the second-place winner receives a pumpkin pie. Check-in and on-site registration begin at 7:30 a.m. Registration is $30 until Nov. 17, then the registration fee goes up to $35.

There will also be a man dressed up as a turkey, fresh pancakes cooked at the finish line from The Egg & I and 30 to 40 door prizes that every registered runner is entered for. These prizes include gift cards, tickets to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and jewelry. Bird said even if those who don’t win a race still have the chance to take something home.

Altrusa International is a women’s service organization that focuses on community and worldwide needs. According to the website, , “Altrusa, in the very derivation of its name, is committed to the philosophy of unselfishness, the joy of giving rather than getting and to the search for that happiness which is based upon spiritual worthiness.”

Bird said Altrusa created the race as a fundraiser for the different community needs it supports. The money made from the race used to be handed out in small grants to different nonprofits, but in 2013, all of the money was donated to West after the West Fertilizer Co. explosion. Bird said it seemed more compelling for people to want to do the race when it was pointed at one specific group, so since 2013, the money has been given to Waco Independent School District (ISD) Outreach. When The Cove was created as a safe space for homeless students, Altrusa quickly took the group under its wing as the permanent recipient.

“I cannot express, especially during Thanksgiving, how thankful I am for the gifts of the community to help this population with their circumstance,” said Teri Holtkamp, executive director of The Cove. “They just need some time to recoup. The numbers are frustrating, but seeing the respite time is so sweet.”

Bird said it was very exciting to see The Cove go from an idea to a reality, as now it is a functioning place for homeless students to get their work done, get a meal, see a clinician and take a shower.

“It is just so gratifying to see a really good idea become a reality,” Bird said about The Cove. “We’re very happy to be able to support this great program for the students who don’t have a permanent home to have a place to go. It’s wonderful to be part of such a great program.”

Holtkamp said 20 percent of students who “couch surf” during their senior year of high school will become chronically homeless in their lifetime. The Cove is a way to close the door to the possibility of that future.

“Once people know what these numbers are, it’s like you can’t not do anything,” Holtkamp said. “Approximately 1,600 students out of the 15,000 in the Waco ISD are homeless, but just one is too many.”

The Cove has been open for only 27 days but has already made a difference in the lives of students in Waco ISD who need the help. Holtkamp said it was just through talking that the idea eventually turned into a reality, as well as by putting together data that had never been connected. She also said the community has completely embraced the program so far, and it has made a difference in the lives of kids and the future of the community.

“These kids are labeled as couch surfing, troubled and attitude problems, but that’s not who they are; it’s their circumstance,” Holtkamp said. “If you can give them a window to look at who they are, then they begin to build up whatever that is that makes them resilient which leads them on to be able to move through their circumstance.”