The season has changed and the finish line has been set for the San Marcos Kiwanis Club's annual Great Pumpkin Dash 5K Race on Oct. 22.
The San Marcos Kiwanis Club is a nonprofit organization that raises charities to support the San Marcos youth, including scholarships for San Marcos High School seniors and raising funds for students at DeZavala Elementary.
Kelli Whigham, the founder of the Great Pumpkin Dash and president of the San Marcos Kiwanis Club joined the club in 2007 to show her daughter how far acts of community service could go.
"At the time, my daughter was in junior high and I was trying to set an example of community service," Whigham said. "That was the main thing; I just wanted to be an example for her. I also love kids and being around them, so helping them out is a big thing for me, too."
The San Marcos Kiwanis Club has been providing funds to the San Marcos youth since 1923, creating multiple fundraisers along with the Great Pumpkin Dash. The organization also provides affiliated clubs for schools within the community, such as the Key Club at San Marcos High School, the Builder's Club at Miller Middle School and K-Kids and Terrific Kids at DeZavala Elementary School, allowing students to perform community service and participate as volunteers in the events and fundraisers that the San Marcos Kiwanis Club hosts.
Whigham has directed the Great Pumpkin Dash since it began in 2013. The idea to start the race was sparked by Moe Johnson, one of the founders and race managers for the San Marcos Runners Club and retired Texas State physical education professor.
Johnson created a race in 1984 called Moe's Better Half Marathon that eventually hosted 250 to 300 runners. The idea to start the marathon sparked from Johnson's running experience with the San Marcos Runners Club and his love for athletic activities.
Johnson retired from the marathon in 2017. By that time, Whigham and the Kiwanis Club had hosted The Great Pumpkin Dash, a race that was inspired by Moe's Better Half Marathon, four times.
Johnson, who has been a member of the Kiwanis Club since the 1980s, was ready to support Whigham as she directed her fourth race. Although The Great Pumpkin Dash has not yet met the number of runners that Johnson's marathon did, Whigham still looks forward to seeing the race grow every year with new and returning runners.
"It's just fun and fellowship with all the different members and volunteers that come together that day," Whigham said. "Even though I have to work, it's fun because I get to visit with everyone and see runners that have run in past years."
Other events for the San Marcos Kiwanis Club span over the year in different seasons, such as silent auctions in February, a flag fundraiser in which the club members install American flags on local businesses during national holidays as well as participation in San Marcos's Veteran's Day Parade by creating a float.
The number of events held by the San Marcos Kiwanis Club, including The Great Pumpkin Dash, allows the club to benefit as many organizations in the community as possible. Even with events like The Great Pumpkin Dash which have 30 contributors and volunteers helping navigate the event, the results still go a long way.
"All of the money raised stays with the San Marcos youth, so it could go to scholarships to graduating seniors within San Marcos High School, or even the boy scouts and girl scouts within San Marcos," Whigham said. "We also try donating to the San Marcos Food Bank whenever we can. We just want to be able to provide for our youth community."
With the span of events throughout the year, Whigham knew that it would be best to host a race during the fall season, as it allows local runners to find a race to run as the weather cools down. To fit the theme of the season, Whigham felt that "The Great Pumpkin Dash" would be most fitting, since the race is take place in October.
Laura Mason, a past runner of the 5K and previous social director of the San Marcos Runners Club, has worked closely with Johnson within the running club. Mason met Whigham through Johnson and participated in the inaugural Great Pumpkin Dash.
Mason said she enjoyed the San Marcos Kiwanis Club's team and award theme.
"They usually have enough volunteers and they're a really fun and easy group to work with," Mason said. "Also, the way they do their awards is very original with the pumpkin theme and I've got several of this race's trophies in my trophy case."
Darrell Rhodes, another former runner for The Great Pumpkin Dash, participated in the race last year and although he can't make the race this year because he'll be out of town, he appreciates how the race was created to be made for runners.
"I mean it's a fundraiser, obviously, which is great, but they tailor the race to make it a runner's race," Rhodes said. "They want to make sure that the race is a good experience for everyone."
The Great Pumpkin Dash will be at Country Estates Swimming Pool. On-site registration starts at 7:30 a.m. and the race starts at 9 a.m.
To sign up for The Great Pumpkin Dash 5K Race, visit https://www.athleteguild.com/event/san-marcos-tx/2022-the-great-pumpkin-dash-5k-run/signup. For more information on the San Marcos Kiwanis Club, visit its website at https://www.sanmarcoskiwanis.org/.
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