Children take off

Children take off at the Elk Grove Gobble Wobble on Thanksgiving morning.

The annual Thanksgiving Day fundraiser, Elk Grove Gobble Wobble, returned to the city’s streets on the morning of Nov. 25.

This 5K, family fun run raises funds for the Elk Grove-based nonprofit Chicks in Crisis, which has a mission to “(reduce) the number of babies facing abandonment, abuse, foster care and even death.”

Chicks in Crisis facilitated more than 450 adoptions, resulting in saving taxpayers $200 million, according to their website.

This year’s run raised about $80,000 and had about 1,300 runners, a total that represents the highest number of participants in the event’s history.

In addition to celebrating the fifth anniversary of this event, Chicks in Crisis had another significant reason to celebrate, considering that Gobble Wobble was only held as a “virtual run” or online fundraiser last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event raised an all-time low of about $19,000 in 2020.

Chicks in Crisis founder Inez Whitlow told the Citizen that she was thrilled to have the event held in person once again.

“We had to do a virtual run (last year) and that was just horrible,” she said. “I never cried so much in my life. It was what it was. Everybody had a bad year. Oh my gosh, we’re beyond excited (about this year’s run).”

Marya Cooley, the director of operations and marketing strategy for Chicks in Crisis, noted that because of the funds raised through this event, this nonprofit will be able to keep its doors open until May, when the Big Day of Giving online fundraiser for nonprofits in the Sacramento region will be held.

“Thanks to our incredible sponsors and all our fabulous runners,” she said. “Every registration fee pays for a box of diapers, so (it is) pretty incredible.”

Elk Grove City Council Member Kevin Spease, who was the event’s master of ceremonies, spoke about the large turnout for this year’s Gobble Wobble.

“To see the community come out in such strength to show support is overwhelming,” he said. “This has been the best year in terms of attendance here, and it just says so much about the community and how much they care for the rest of the community.”

While Spease spoke at the event, his fellow council member, Darren Suen, was busy participating in the run, on his way to an 88th place finish.

Suen, who ran in the event with his wife, Denise, referred to the event as having the “spirit of the community.”

“It’s just a great time,” he said. “It really puts me in good spirits to see everybody out here.”

While standing next to his son, Ben Horner, Elk Grove resident Chris Horner shared his interest in participating in the event.

“It’s an opportunity for us to get out as a family,” he said. “This is a good cause – Chicks in Crisis – so, really, it’s incentive for us to get out as a family and contribute for the community.”

Elk Grove resident Sharlyn Miller, who arrived at the event with six adults, two children and two dogs, said that she enjoyed participating in the event with her friends.

“I feel good about it,” she said. “It’s a good way to start Thanksgiving with friends in supporting those in need.”

Another member of that group, Elk Grove resident Kyle Falconer, said that he was solely interested in finishing the run and enjoying the company of his friends.

“I work construction for a living,” he said. “I’m not built for fast.”

While many people jogged slowly or walked in this year’s Gobble Wobble, there were others who kept a much faster pace.

The first runner to cross the finish line at this year’s Gobble Wobble was 16-year-old Matthew McDonald, a member of the Cosumnes Oaks High School cross country team. He finished the run in 16 minutes and 49 seconds.

McDonald told the Citizen that after pondering whether to run a slower pace with his friends, he was encouraged by his grandfather to compete for a better mark.

“My grandpa (said), ‘You’ve got to treat this like a race, like you’ve really got to try your hardest to finish everything and (use) everything you worked on for all your career.’

“I’ve been practicing a half mile all of my entire career with my coach (Amber Lassetter) and that helped me go finish this (run) and then get first (place).”

The top female finisher was 24-year-old Celine Lum, who completed the run in 18 minutes and 55 seconds.

Lum, who lives in Arizona and was visiting her boyfriend, Kainalu Asam, and his family in Elk Grove, said that she did not begin the run with the intention of winning any category in the event.

“I was just trying to finish (the run); that was my strategy,” she said. “My boyfriend doesn’t run and so, we went out and started and he was in front of me and so, I think that kind of ticked me off and I was like, ‘Let’s go.’”

But Lum later explained that Asam is a noteworthy runner, mentioning that he won the Elk Grove Gobble Wobble four years ago. He finished this year’s race in 15th place, with a mark of 19 minutes and 17 seconds.

Lum, a former track and field team athlete, recognized the “greater cause” of this event.

“It makes me so thankful to know that we can all be out here together as a community, run together and do it for something greater,” she said. “For us to all be together as a community and do that, it really says a lot. I mean, we could be doing anything this morning, and to all be out here, it’s quite wonderful.”