by Caroline Franks
Ready to put on your Santa hat? And lace up your running shoes? The Salvation Army is hoping you’ll do just that to help change lives in Ottawa. The 27th annual Salvation Army Santa Shuffle is happening Saturday, December 2, at Lansdowne Park. Hosted in partnership with Running Room, the fundraiser is taking place in 41 communities across Canada; Ottawa’s event is the largest, with over 1600 participants.
Local families love it. Focused on fun and accessible to all, the Santa Shuffle includes a five-kilometre Fun Run, a one-kilometre Elf Walk and an opportunity to get dressed up in something festive. Participants wear creative Christmas costumes, and mascots including Santa Claus, the Salvation Army’s Shieldy and superheroes are on hand for the Elf Walk.
But there’s more than fun and exercise associated with this community event. There’s hope too. Funds raised support Ottawa Salvation Army programs and services. For instance, a $50 pledge can provide eight families with milk for a week or provide a hot meal for 20 children.
“One in eight Canadian households struggle to put food on the table and one in seven children go to school hungry. As a community we can help our neighbours and at the same time enjoy a family event that promotes tness and fun,” says Tammy Kohls, the Salvation Army’s special events coordinator. She emphasizes the importance of collecting pledges to support families in need. “Ask your friends, family and colleagues to donate what they can.”
Collect pledges to support families in need
This year Joanne Kilby-Coulas, 46, will be doing the Santa Shuffle run for the second time. She’s grateful for the help the Salvation Army provided when she was a teenager. Joanne left a troubled home with nothing but the clothes on her back. A sibling encouraged her to go to the Salvation Army Booth Centre emergency shelter, since at the time it offered a youth wing. The Salvation Army provided her with a place to stay, three meals a day, counselling support and housing.
“The Salvation Army was the stepping stone I needed to move on with my life,” Joanne says. “I was determined to get back on my feet and I have come a long way. Today I am strong because the Salvation Army was there for me when I needed it most.”
Years later, she was living in a high- rise apartment building on Bank Street when there was a nighttime fire on the top floor. “It was cold out and everyone was evacuated onto the street. I remember being so grateful the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Service was there handing out blankets,” she mentions.
Joanne has a visual impairment, but it hasn’t stopped her from participating in many races and collecting many finisher medals over the years. “I like the Salvation Army Santa Shuffle medal the most,” she reveals. “It’s the contribution they make to the community.” She knows, first-hand, the life-changing di erence it makes.
John Stanton, CEO and founder of Running Room, explains that running has many benefits. “Running is about being mentally and physically strong. Everyone will tell you that crossing the finish line gives you a sense of empowerment.”
Running isn’t just for athletes, he adds. The whole family can get involved, including beginners and longtime competitors.
“When children get active they learn not only the benefits of being physically fit, they learn teamwork and how to socialize with other children and adults, so there is a social component and community component,” he points out. “For those just starting out, and if your doctor gives you the go ahead, I recommend a gentle run/walk program over 10 weeks leading up to a five-kilometre [run].”
In preparation for the Santa Shuffle, Running Room is offering free walk/run clinics Wednesdays at 6:30 pm.
Describing the Santa Shuffle as “for the people and by the people,” John says, “When you support this event you’re supporting the whole community.”
Some of this year’s highlights include free breakfast from Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill, an Elf Yourself make-up artist and a warm-up before the start of the run. Every participant also gets a Santa Shuffle medal.
Schools and corporate teams are encouraged to get involved, and volunteers are welcome too. For details and registration, see www.santashuffle.ca. ◆