Runners take part in last year’s Thanksgiving 5K to benefit Young Lives. The race raises money for teenage mothers to attend a special summer camp. CONTRIBUTED

5K Thanksgiving Day run in Hamilton helps teen moms

The third annual Young Lives Thanksgiving Run raises money for teenage mothers to attend a special summer camp, and organizers are expecting the event’s largest crowd so far on Thursday.

“We expect between 500 to 1,000 (race participants) this year,” said Katie Powers, coordinator of the race that last year drew just over 300 people.

That’s impressive growth since the race’s inaugural year, which had 30 participants.

Part of the growth has come from adding more events.

“We have a few new elements to this year’s Thanksgiving 5K, including a chip-timed official 5K course, finishers’ medals, and a special top finishers prize for our first place male and female 5K runners,” Powers said. “The 5K course is improved from last year and will be closed to traffic. Our free kids fun run is expanding into three age groups with top finisher prizes as well.”

With the race’s growth also comes the opportunity for Young Lives, a non-denominational ministry for teen moms or pregnant teens, to help more mothers and their children.

Last year, funds raised by the 5K were used to send 18 teen moms, their children and mentors to a summer camp in Michigan, according to Powers.

“This year we hope to raise the funds and have the opportunity to send even more,” she said.

Young Lives is part of a larger organization, Young Life, a Christian ministry that reaches out to middle school, high school and college-aged students across the country, according to its website.

Mindee Callahan helps lead the local effort, and she said the annual running event has become a favorite for local teen mothers.

“We have been doing a regular Stroller Club to prepare mothers for the race,” she said.

Brittany Botkins is one of the young mothers who is part of the Young Lives organization. She said the faith-based group has helped her by providing emotional support.

“I can reconnect with Jesus and other friends and they have a great support system. I know I can always count on them,” Botkins said about Young Lives.

Botkins, who has attended the summer camp twice, said being a part of Young Lives has helped her raise her daughter, Jayce, who is almost 2 years old.

“It is important for our community to support Young Lives because there are ladies around Hamilton that have nobody and don’t know about Jesus,” Botkins said. “When they come to Young Lives, they will always be welcomed and loved.”