Ballantyne area gets own turkey-themed run

Community members looking for a pre-Thanksgiving workout before turkey comas and belly aches set in don’t have to go too far, thanks to the efforts of one local family.

Gary and Leslie Schwake, residents of Rea Woods, are organizing the first annual Charlotte Turkey Dash, to take place Thanksgiving Day at the Village at Robinson Farms.

Gary and Leslie Schwake, residents of Rea Woods, are organizing the first annual Charlotte Turkey Dash, to take place Thanksgiving Day at the Village at Robinson Farms.

Gary and Leslie Schwake have been living in south Charlotte for 16 years and are residents of the Rea Woods subdivision. South Charlotte is where they started their family, and the only home their three daughters and recently adopted son have known. Gary Schwake, the president and co-founder of Virtual Race Bags, a software service company for events, and Leslie Schwake, a fitness instructor at the Morrison Family YMCA, have been participating in the SouthPark Charlotte Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day for several years. It’s one of their favorite holiday traditions. But in recent years, the event has grown and grown, this year reaching 11,000 participants.

“It’s been a great holiday tradition for us – to really bring the family together,” Gary Schwake said. “But we just had more and more neighbors and friends wanting to have one of these Thanksgiving races in their own backyard.”

That’s why the Schwakes are launching the Turkey Dash Charlotte, a four-mile run and one-mile fun run to be held Thanksgiving morning right in the StoneCrest area. Start and finish lines will be located in the parking lot of the Village at Robinson Farms shopping center on Thursday, Nov. 28. The fun run will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with the four-mile run starting at 9 a.m.

Registration for the four-mile run costs $40 and the fun run costs $17 until Saturday, Nov. 23, and prices are $45 and $23, respectively, during the week of the race. Proceeds will benefit local nonprofit Beds For Kids, whose mission is to provide a bed and other essential furniture to every child and family in need in Charlotte.

“Indirectly, we became aware of Beds For Kids through Forest Hill Church. They told the story of how (the organization) started,” Gary Schwake said. “We were just drawn to that story, and Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the fact that we are really, really blessed and remember those that don’t have as much.”

So far, 600 participants have signed up for the event, and the Schwakes, along with an “incredible amount of volunteers,” hope to see a total of 1,000 people participate in the first annual event.

The Schwake family hopes the event will be a new family and community tradition where moms, dads, kids, friends and neighbors can come together on a holiday and have fun in a healthy way. That’s why, in addition to the races, they will be hosting the Turkey Dash Family Village, a festival-type atmosphere next to the start and finish lines that will include fun activities like inflatable obstacle courses, photo booths, crafts and more, music from a professional DJ, as well as food and drinks from Robinson Farm restaurants and race sponsors. Kids participating in the fun run also will receive a medal and all participants will receive a virtual goody bag with more than $50 in savings from sponsors and local and national brands.

Find more information on the racecourse and map, how to register, and where to pick-up packet and registration details at

“It’s just a great forced way to work out on Thanksgiving Day – you leave just feeling great,” Gary Schwake said. “There are a lot of people there you know and it’s really a great way to start your Thanksgiving holiday.”

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