Holiday Hustle raises $2,800 for One Stop Community Christmas


Raine Zhu

Kaj Holm, a teacher at Charleston High School, wore a Christmas-themed outfit for Saturday’s Holiday Hustle 5K run/walk. He was the fourth person to cross the finish line in front of Old Main with a time of 21 minutes and 55 seconds.

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

People of all ages huddled in front of the gates of Old Main Saturday and waited for their signal to take off on their 5k “hustle” to support over 900 families.

Participants for this year’s Holiday Hustle helped raise $2,800 for One Stop Community Christmas.

Despite uncertainty with the weather, as Sami Boomgarden, one of the executive directors of the Holiday Hustle committee, put it during the opening ceremony, the race went on.

Beth Gillespie, the director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, said in a nutshell the focus of One Stop Community Christmas is to make December brighter and easier for families by doing more than just making sure there are gifts under the tree.

“We also provide food for a holiday meal, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers … we do books, games, fleece blankets,” Gillespie said, adding that Eastern students helped make 1,300 fleece blankets for this year.

She said overall, over 900 families will be served for this season, and in those 900 families there are 2,280 kids.

“We know that the family is already struggling to make decisions like, ‘Do I pay rent or do I put food on the table’ and then you throw in the extra stress of the holidays that can just … dramatically shift things (the wrong way),” Gillespie said.

“With the power of people like you and the power of people like Sami and the whole team we get to make a difference in the lives of over 900 families, and all of the money raised today is going to support and take care of those families.”

Gillespie was referring to people like 10-year-old Keagan Baah and 10-year-old Christian Blackburn, two friends from Oakland.

Baah said he came because his mom was helping out and since Blackburn was over for a sleepover, Baah asked if he would like to go with.

Baah said he took the shorter route to get to the finish line and Blackburn said he went the longer way, dodging deep mud puddles all along the Panther Trail.

“I actually went a lot faster than I thought I (would) for staying up till one in the morning,” Blackburn said.

The duo said they not only had fun running, but they also felt good because it was a good cause.

“It helps kids, some kids don’t even get Christmas so we’re just trying to make Christmas happy,” Baah said.

Kaj Holm, a teacher at Charleston High School, said he also felt like he contributed to “a good cause.” He finished in fourth place after three students he said he helped coach at one point or another for track or cross-country.

He said participating in the 5k was a push to force himself to train for some marathons and half marathons and to help out.

“It’s easier to train when I have races planned, then I saw this one and I was like, ‘Hey this looks like fun, (and for a) good cause.”

Holm said it was a great way for him to help provide families with what they need for Christmas just by signing up for the race, and since he likes to run as well he called it a “win-win” situation.

“I want to make sure that (kids) can have the Christmas I know I grew up with and do anything I can do for that,” he said.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].