Race isn’t over for charities after Run to Feed the Hungry draws a smaller crowd

More than 27,000 people were greeted with sunny skies and smoke-free air Thursday as they jogged through the streets of East Sacramento for the 25th annual Run to Feed the Hungry.

The popular event drew about 2,400 fewer runners than last year, though, likely due to the 10 days of smoke that descended on the region from the massive Camp Fire in Butte County, said Blake Young, president and CEO of Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.

Young expects the food bank to receive about $100,000 to $120,000 less in revenue from the event than last year.

“That’s a significant revenue decline for us,” Young said. “We hope people are moved to give a little more … before the end of the year and that will ensure that our programs and services — the 25 million pounds of food we give out to the community on an annual basis — continues,” Young said.

The food bank is also partnering with others in the Bay Area to provide resources to Butte County food pantries for Camp Fire evacuees, Young said.

“What we can do to help them will take out of our coffers, so there’s no question this year more than ever we’re going to ask people to step up,” Young said.

The philanthropic opportunity is what draws friends Deonna Ledbetter and Sandy Villagran out to the event each year, dressed in tutus and turkey headbands.

“It all goes to a good cause and it’s a great way to give back on a day that’s supposed to be about that,” said Ledbetter, of Lincoln.

Greg Ruszovan, a new runner, was getting concerned about the race when it was too smoky to run outside in the days leading up to it.

He was relieved when rain Wednesday cleared the smoke, but ended in time for the 10K’s 8:15 a.m. start time Thursday.

“I woke up at 6 a.m., saw the stars and said ‘let’s run,’” said Ruszovan, of Sacramento.

Some, like Ken Vanderford, would have participated no matter the weather.

Vanderford has been attending the event every year since it began, although he had to stop running about eight years ago because of a bad knee. This was his first year dressing up.

“I’ve been watching people for years have costumes and I thought ‘I’ll get a little festive this year,’” said Vanderford, a retired history teacher for Natomas Unified School District, who dressed as a pilgrim.

While 27-year-old Magie Ortega was running the race, her boyfriend Leo Beas was waiting at the finish line getting ready to pop the question.

Family members of Ortega and Beas traveled from Stockton and Lodi to the race to congratulate the happy couple at the finish line.

“I’m really excited. I didn’t imagine he was planning this big elaborate thing,” said Ortega, of Sacramento, while holding a bouquet of roses and admiring her new ring.

Some traveled farther for the run, including 23-year-old Logan Stahl, the 5K’s third-place winner, of Cheney, Wash.

Connor Fisher, 24 of Chico took first place in that race, while William Reyes, 24 of Chico took first place in the 10K.

For the first year, organizers are keeping the Drumstick Dasher “virtual participant” registration open through 11:59 p.m. Thursday, 15 hours longer than usual, allowing people to receive a bib and shirt if they donate.

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