By Tanya Terry
The Annual Santa Run & Walk has been called “the unofficial start of the holiday season.” Bcause of it, people in the Flint community are able to see thousands of Santas running together-grandparents, parents and their kids-all dressed up in Santa attire! The event is always the held on the first Saturday in December.
This is the 12th year the Annual Santa Run & Walk will be taking place. The run and walk brought out about 200 participants in its very first year, and annually they have been averaging 1,500-1,800 runners and walkers. Generally, the event raises about $35,000 per year, according to Pam Bailey, director of fundraising and public relations for the YMCA of Greater Flint.
Bailey explained why the event felt special this year despite the fact last year’s virtual race, available again this year, gained participation from around the county.
“We’re able to have it in person again, which is something we weren’t able to have last year,” she said. “This year we’re making sure we have all our COVID preparations. We’re going to be holding a lot more items outdoors, whereas in the past we’ve had more indoor photo stops and crafting. We’re just really excited to be able to be returning to be back in person, and I think the community really missed it last year. We’re excited to have Santas running through Flint again!”
Each registered participant receives a Santa hat, beard, belt, coat and pants. Also included with each $30 adult or $15 child registration is a finisher medal and a milk and cookie stop provided by Cook’s Dairy Farm and VG’s Grocery. There is even a “reindeer run” around the block little racers get antlers for.
Photo stops with a giant Santa sleigh, a giant gingerbread house, a tree and a giant candy cane add to the novelty of the experience. Coffee Beanery donates coffee and hot chocolate for the end of the race. The finisher medals are sponsored by Dort Financial Credit Union, and feature a “running cookie” this year. The fastest male and female Santa receive a gift basket with racing items in it.
Every year, over 8,000 people receive some sort of assistance through the YMCA. Events like the Santa Run pay for this assistance. This assistance can be in the form of family memberships to the Y, scholarships for day camp or overnight camp at Camp Copneconic, the free afterschool program available to the community or swim lessons-all to enrich the lives of area youth.
“The mission of the Y is to build strong youth, strong families and strong communities,” Bailey noted.
For details about the Santa Run & Walk 5K or one mile race, visit Flintymca.com, or register in person at the downtown YMCA, located at 411 E. Third St., in Flint.