GR Turkey Trot shatters record while helping students

Grand Rapids Turkey Trot
Thousands gather outside Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids for the annual Grand Rapids Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. (Nov. 23, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Move your feet before you eat: A record-setting number of people heeded that call Thanksgiving morning during the annual Grand Rapids Turkey Trot.

A total of 4,460 people turned out for the 5K event and the SpartanNash 1K Mini-Trot, shattering last year’s record of 3,278 participants and more than doubling 2014’s turnout of 1,900.

>>Photos: 2017 Grand Rapids Turkey Trot

Last year, the Grand Rapids Turkey Trot raised more than $70,000 for the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ after school sports programs, helping more than 6,000 student athletes.

“This is a way the community can come out and support student achievement in a different way,” said GRPS Athletic Director Kurt Johnson.

He says the support is crucial since many school systems switched to a pay-to-play system.

“You can have to pay $100 or more per sport. And that can become quite expensive if you have other siblings who also play in the same family, multiple sports,” Johnson said.

Organizers and supporters say the health benefits are two-fold, for the participants and the athletes they’re supporting.

“(They learn) healthy habits at an early age, you know they can use the rest of their lives. Team building. It’s all about supporting the kids, so that’s why we’re out here,” said Jessica Iloff of the Blue Care Network of Michigan, which sponsored the event.

“We know that kids can benefit from being in structured, supervised after school programs. We learn a lot of life lessons through athletics and we want to promote that even more,” said Johnson.

This was the 25th anniversary for the Grand Rapids Turkey Trot, which started and ended downtown at the Van Andel Arena.