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Participants model that holiday spirit of giving and get some exercise at the same time.

COURTESY PHOTO - Runners take off for the Give n Gobble at Sherwood High School last year.It may be your practice to take a mile-long jog following the Thanksgiving meal. After all, you get to burn off a few calories and, in the process, feel less guilty. But in Sherwood, the reverse is true. Exercise comes before the turkey dinner, in the form of the Give n' Gobble.

According to Cindy Aggson, owner of Carpe Viam Marketing in Sherwood, the Give n' Gobble is a popular "turkey trot-style" run, walk and community food drive to benefit the Helping Hands Food Bank. It's an annual tradition that dates back over a decade.

Aggson stays busy throughout the year organizing the fun event, which draws over 3,000 participants, volunteers and spectators.

The Give n' Gobble's start area is right behind the football stadium at Sherwood High School and involves a 5K walk, a 5K run and a 10K run.

Aggson started the Give n' Gobble in 2007. Her goal that year was at least 100 participants. She was "thrilled and honored," however, when more than 500 runners and walkers took part.

COURTESY PHOTO - Give n Gobble is a fundraiser for the Helping Hands Food Bank that started in 2007.Money raised from the Give n' Gobble event helps fund the Helping Hands Sherwood Food Bank.

According to the Helping Hands Facebook page, Helping Hands is "A nonprofit organization, staffed by volunteers, whose mission is to 'extend a helping hand to those in need of food in the Sherwood community.'"

Residents of Sherwood have proved generous each year in supporting the Give n' Gobble.

As an example, the event has donated over $330,000 and 75,000 pounds of food to date. This money helps with Helping Hands' yearly expenses. The money allows the food bank to provide hundreds of local families in need with food products, including fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products. The Give n' Gobble also provides money for the Backpack Meals For Kids Program, which provides over 100 meals each week for at-risk elementary students.

"They give nutritious, kid-friendly food," Aggson said. "Helping Hands has shared with me that running a program like this is very expensive and they feel they wouldn't be able to do it without the Give n' Gobble. We feel very grateful to be able to help support all the amazing work they do all year long."

In starting the Give n' Gobble, Aggson, an avid runner, explained her desire to help fellow neighbors.

"I have always enjoyed giving back in some way," Aggson said, noting she volunteered for Habitat for Humanity by helping build houses.

The Give n' Gobble attracts folks from all age groups, and Aggson enjoys the fact that everybody seems happy.

"People are dressed up as Pilgrims and turkeys," she said. "We've had people in their 90s and we've had brand new babies. One of my favorite memories was somebody proposed on the finish line — we've had at least one celebrity, from The Amazing Race (an Emmy Award-winning reality TV show)."

Aggson has a special memory. "One of the most heartwarming stories ever was this guy who pushed his 93-year-old mom in a retrofitted baby stroller so that she could share in their family tradition ... it was just amazing."

Whether you're young or old, volunteers keep the Give n' Gobble enjoyable.

"We have volunteers at all the corners," Aggson said. "There are over 150 volunteers who make it fun — they'll play music, they'll blow bubbles, they're cheering people on, they make signs. We want it to feel like a fun celebration, a party, all the way through."

Aggson continued, "Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays, if not the best holiday, because it's all about being grateful."

Registered participants who bring a bag of non-perishable food to donate will receive a free shirt, while supplies last. "Each year, we donate a truckload of food," Aggson said, adding good food choices include peanut butter, tuna fish, soup, cereal and kid-friendly foods.

Aggson feels "overwhelming gratitude and pride" for her city watching the event unfold each year.

"I think the most heartwarming thing for me, that just blows me away, is that the event has become a tradition," she said. "It's just part of our town. This is what we do — they're (participants) just so happy to be doing something for people in need, and doing something happy and healthy together."

Information on the Give n' Gobble can be found at givengobble.com.

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IF YOU GO...

What: Give n' Gobble, a walk/run fundraiser for Helping Hands Food Bank

When: 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving Day)

Where: Aaron J. Contreras Stadium at Sherwood High School, 16956 S.W. Meinecke Road

More information: givengobble.com


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