Jingle Bell Run reaches fifth year

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The annual 5K and 2 mile walk to benefit Toys for Tots is scheduled for this Sunday, Dec. 9

@TheSunGazette
VISALIA – A great way to get into the holiday spirit this season is to give back. Well this weekend you can do that while making some extra room for the Christmas feast. The fifth annual Jingle Bell Run for Toys for Tots is schedule for Sunday, Dec. 9, at Mooney Grove Park, 27000 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia.
The sole purpose of this event is to collect toys for children in need this holiday season. Every participant who donates an unwrapped toy will receive a Santa hat. Race director Walt Coats is in his third year running this event, but has been involved since its creation. In that time, he has seen the race grow from 150 people to over 300 runners and walkers who participated last year. Those participants donated over 2,500 toys, and over a $1,000. The event usually collects four boxes of toys.
“It is really great to see the community come out and make this their own,” Coats said. “Hopefully we will continue to grow. It is great to help the kids.”
The event will include both a timed 5K and an untimed 2-mile walk. The races are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. The 5K event is chipped and awards will be given out to the top three finishers of each age division.
“Some of the runners get pretty competitive,” Coats said.
The cost for either the run or the walk is $30 before Dec. 8 at 11:59 p.m. After that date the price goes up to $35. There is a special rate for kids 10 years old and younger of $20. Each entry will be given a Jingle Bell Run sweatshirt, jingle bells and Christmas themed cookies.
All participants can pick up their race day packets on Dec. 8 at Fit Republic Visalia, 4207 W. Noble Way in Visalia, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Race packets will also be available for pickup the day of the event beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Coats added that even if someone isn’t participating in the event there is still something for everyone to do. Hot chocolate will be available, and there will be festive music playing as family members cheer on their loved ones.
In years past, participants have dressed up as Santa, or participated in their pajamas. Groups often get together and dress up in festive attire for the event. One of the most looked-forward-to aspects of the race is the 50 Marine recruits who jog in formation while reciting a cadence.
Even if you are unable to attend the event and still want to help out Toys for Tots, you can. There are boxes located at places of business around Visalia, and will be out until Dec. 15.
Coats says that he hopes the event will keep on growing. A goal of his is to someday reach 1,000 people, and maybe someday provide clothing to children as well.