MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Five years ago, cousins Dustin and Andrew Dumas, of South Orange and Maplewood, respectively, wanted to participate in a Thanksgiving Day race, but they couldn’t find one being held in the area. Not wanting to drive more than a half an hour to run, they gathered their family and friends and started their own. The Dumas Family Turkey Trot only asked for canned food as the entrance fee, to be donated to local food pantries. Earlier this month, the Dumas cousins donated six boxes of canned food, proceeds from their fifth annual Turkey Trot, to local food pantries. They had decided to make their donation after the holidays, when food pantries typically have greater need.
“I’ve volunteered at food pantries and they get a lot of donations around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but not as often after,” Dustin Dumas told the News-Record in a phone interview on Jan. 11. “There’s a greater need for it then.”
Andrew Dumas agreed, saying that donating their admission fees to the race at the beginning of the new year rather than right after Thanksgiving makes more of a difference.
“What we’ve seen is there’s a beautiful outpouring around the holidays, but there’s a drop in the first quarter of the year,” he said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Jan. 12. “So we do it sometime in January. It’s not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s throughout the year. We want to leverage the kind acts and keep it going.”
The Dumas Turkey Trot has been going strong for five years. Still relatively small, the cousins invite their family and friends and make their own T-shirts for runners to wear. The competitors’ numbers and a race clock are borrowed from the YMCA, and Dustin Dumas said that she takes old donated trophies, covers them in a coat of spray paint and refigures them so that they can award a runner.
“We didn’t want to spend money on food or trophies, that would kind of defeat the purpose,” she said. “This way the community is coming together and doing something good, while also getting exercise. We wanted to do something worthwhile, so we asked for donated food.”
It’s only January, but Dustin and Andrew Dumas plan to hold the Turkey Trot again this year. Before that, though, they want to explore other ways to hold races and spread goodwill throughout the rest of the year, not just in the last two months.
“We don’t delay giving too long, but we want it to be after the ‘hype’ season,” Dustin Dumas said. “Maybe it could help someone else do this.”
Andrew Dumas also wants to help inspire other communities and community members to hold races of their own.
“I like the idea of opening it up and having satellites, not just one big run,” he said. “We could take it to various community groups and block party neighborhoods. It doesn’t have to be a Turkey Trot. We could empower smaller groups to do something in the spring, or maybe Halloween, to raise money or donations throughout the year and do some good.”
Photos Courtesy of Dustin Dumas