It was three weeks before Thanksgiving 10 years ago, and Geoff and Pam Reese were hanging out with Mike and Mindy Short at their Double Oak home and kicking around the idea of signing up for the Dallas Turkey Trot.
The foursome were avid runners and had been there and done that before. But the drive to Dallas was long, and parking was always a nightmare.
“That’s when we all kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s have our own turkey trot,’” Geoff said with a laugh.
When you look at what the Double Oak Turkey Trot has become since that fateful night, you’d think it was organized by someone who has put on hundreds of races. After all, the event — which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Thanksgiving morning at 320 Waketon Road — pulls in more than a thousand runners almost every year.
Last year, it raised more than $30,000 for Geoff’s nonprofit youth service organization, Dare to Serve. And runners aren’t just showing up from Double Oak and surrounding areas. They’re coming from California, Iowa, and everywhere in between.
The run is expected to be just as popular this year — even in the midst of a global pandemic.
But Geoff will be the first to tell you that none of them had a clue what they were doing that first year.
“When my wife, Pam, and Mindy Short went the next day to get permission from Chief Derrick Watson at the Double Oak Police Department, the first question he asked was how many people were we expecting. Our answer was 12 — pretty much our family members,” Geoff said. “We didn’t know anything — and we had three weeks to make it all happen. We jumped into action, got shirts, made a route, and did the best we could. We had 179 runners that first year.”
That number ballooned to just more than 700 runners by the fourth year. They’ve sold out each of the last five runs.
“We literally pinch ourselves every year and say, ‘Can you believe what this has become?’” Geoff said.
And it’s always been for a great cause. Originally from Chicago, Geoff and Pam moved to Double Oak in 2007 so that Geoff could help another national youth organization that he was working for grow its presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He ran that initiative practically by himself, and when they decided to start the Double Oak Turkey Trot, it made sense to have the proceeds benefit that organization. In 2017, Geoff moved on and started Dare to Serve.
Dare to Serve is a faith-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sets up and facilitates meaningful charitable work for inner-city kids in their schools, communities, and around the world. This includes student-led, faith-based leadership groups, and service-oriented local and national mission trips. Dare to Serve has also helped implement food and resource closets at area schools for underprivileged students who need help with food, snacks, and other necessities.
“It’s just a great opportunity to give these kids a chance to serve and do things they’ve never done before. In the summer, we’ve had opportunities to take these kids to camps they’ve never been to before because they can’t afford it,” Geoff said. “Our kids go there and serve alongside the workers, and after their service time, they are free to take part in the other youth activities and things that go on at camp. The kids love it, and for many of them, it’s their first time.”
The Double Oak Turkey Trot ensures these programs continue, and the good news is that there still might be time if you want to make this year’s race your new family tradition. All you have to do is register at http://getmeregistered.com/DoubleOakTurkeyTrot.
There will be a 1-mile fun run and a 5K, and they’ve partnered with We Time Races for the timing of the longer run. Timing chips will be embedded into each runner’s bib. For those who want to be part of the event but don’t feel comfortable coming out in person due to COVID-19, there will also be a virtual race.
Geoff said that he and other race organizers and volunteers are doing all they can to ensure this year’s event is as safe as it can possibly be for participants. All volunteers will be wearing masks, and packet pickup is being moved from inside Town Hall to the outdoor pavilion to promote proper social distancing. Runners are also asked to wear masks at the start.
Though it hasn’t been decided yet, they might do staggered start times for the race to avoid long lines.
“Safety is paramount,” Geoff said. “We are taking the necessary measures to keep everyone safe. We are just grateful for the Town of Double Oak and all of our volunteers for helping us put this on every year, and it’s crazy to see how far it has come. I wear my shirt all the time and have people approach me about how they’ve run in it before.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do something like this every year. It’s a tradition for our town and community.”