Trotting into the Holiday Season!

The annual Santa’s 5K Toy Trot at Shorefront Park


Photo by Justin Zhou

He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so….

Don’t you just love the holidays? Think about it- Christmas music playing 24/7 on the radio, entire streets lighting up with brilliant decorations, little children wondering about the presents Santa will give them this year- who doesn’t enjoy these festive December weeks? Although many may become absorbed with this celebratory mindset, especially during the countdown towards winter break, it is of utmost vitality to keep in mind the foundation of the holidays: the giving spirit. Isn’t the whole point of the holidays to spread joy and bring family and friends together? This weekend, hundreds of people did just that, braving the chilly temperatures to make sure families and children in need would have the opportunity to enjoy a true Christmas experience.

On Sunday morning, hundreds of participants attended the annual Santa’s 5K Toy Trot at Shorefront Park. This event was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Patchogue, part of an international organization created for the service of others. The course explored a scenic route starting and ending at the local park, bordering the shores of the alluring Great South Bay. The race was open to people of all ages-including toddlers-and dogs were also welcome. Overall, over 950 runners came to the park from various regions of Long Island, an impressive number that showed the robust support of the local community. Additionally, registrants were requested to being a new, unwrapped toy for the Kiwanis Club’s Community Toy Drive. These toys would then be handed out to less fortunate families in hopes of making Christmas morning more special for their kids. Standing out among the various donations was one generous participant who astoundingly brought in two brand new Google laptops! This amazing deed will surely serve as an amazing Christmas present and make their holidays all the more special.

Also noteworthy are the 130 volunteers who came to help out at the event. Among those were members of the high school’s Key Club, Robotics team, Venture Crew, and EVOtech firm. Volunteers were assigned numerous tasks throughout the event: helping with registration, passing out water to fellow joggers, making sure the course and parking lots were easily accessible, and collecting toy donations from race participants.

Photo by Justin Zhou
PMHS students from several organizations help out at this year’s Toy Trot

Not only did the event impact the holiday season for those in need, it was also a rewarding experience for volunteers at the event. As 10th grader Miral Oltulu stated, “I enjoyed handing out the water and seeing the reactions of those who had finished the race.” A great example of the warm benefits one can gain from volunteer work, Miral’s experience goes to show how community service can be favorable to both sides. Furthermore, when asked on his personal take of the event, 11th grader Chris Newham revealed, “I think overall it really brought the community together and was a success.” The cohesive atmosphere generated by the toy trot truly showed the overwhelming support and dedication the community had towards the local people in need.

I think overall it really brought the community together and was a success.

— Chris Newham

The palpable energy and spirit in the air made the whole occasion all the more worthwhile. One of the most engaging sights was the the diverse mix of entrants at the event: people were dressed as Santa, the Grinch, gingerbread men, elves, snowmen and even a T. Rex, to the pleasure of many. All participants were welcomed inside a giant heated tent where bagels and an assortment of snacks were served. Although the tent was soon crowded with hundreds of attendees, the warm temperature, lively conversation, and of course, the food, were all well appreciated, especially considering the chilly weather. Soon after the race began, people (and dogs) started congregating around the finish line. It was impossible not to notice the enthusiasm buzzing in the air: family members were eagerly waiting for their loved ones to appear down the street; volunteers were happily handing out water bottles to the hundreds returning to the park; cheers and sounds of elation were audible as runners sprinted their last 100 meters; the runners themselves beamed in pride and relief as they bolted through the finish line. Though minuscule, these details provide the foundation of a flourishing community life.

Making it to the finish line.

At the conclusion of the race, the proceeds gained from the event were sorted out. In total, the Toy Trot boasted hundreds of toys that were packaged in a dozen large bags by the Robotics team. These toys were then distributed to “help out numerous churches, soup kitchens, and schools,” according to Dr. Borowski, Kiwanis advisor to Key Club, advisor for Venture Crew, and former AP Environmental Science teacher at the high school. He added that the money raised would help youth and family throughout the community. Additionally, money accumulated from donations would be transferred to the charitable 501(c)3 Kiwanis Foundation, “dedicated to changing the world one child, and one community, at a time.” Evidently, the Kiwanis Santa’s 5K Toy Trot was widely successful, and sincerely made the holiday season extra special for everyone.

It can’t be stressed enough to remember not only the concerns of your own family and friends, but of the others residing in your community as well. Christmas season is about giving and spreading love, and to make sure everyone can enjoy quality family time. Unfortunately, this time of year might not be the “Christmas” many may imagine for the less fortunate, especially as weather conditions become increasingly dangerous. Events that bring the community together, such as Santa’s 5K Toy Trot and the Holiday Luncheon held at South Ocean Middle School later that day, are thus ever the more important. Moreover, the Toy Trot showed the undeniable beauty and unity of the Patchogue-Medford community as a whole.

Helping others is a common theme wherever you go, as it should be. This Sunday morning, the toy trot provided just a small glimpse of the enormous potential humanity had by working together. Accomplishing so much for the benefit of all surely delivered inspiration to myself, if not all who attended the event. Being considerate of other’s situations, as well as cooperation, are vital in the success of both the present and our future generations. On that note, I wish everyone a memorable, warm and safe holiday season!