Track Friday: First-year event aims to do away with Thanksgiving commercialism
Over the years, the unchecked commercial glut of Black Friday has intruded upon and overwhelmed the traditional meaning of Thanksgiving.
Trumbull resident Heidi Langan looks to reverse this trend and salvage the nearly capsized family holiday from its mall-induced fever with the town’s first-ever Track Friday event that focuses on charity, community and health.
“The whole premise is to get away with the hype and materialism that surrounds this time of the year,” she explained. “What I really want to see happen is for our community to shed the commercialism of Black Friday and replace it by coming together with friends and family.”
Langan, who owns and operates H4Fitness in town, encourages residents to sign up for the fitness-based event that takes place at the Trumbull High School track from 9 to noon on Friday, Nov. 27. Participants may either run or walk, at any distance, while donating to the charity of their choice.
An avid runner who’s been running her whole life, Langan moved to Trumbull eight years ago before opening her business three years ago, and she’s been teaching running ever since.
She borrowed the idea of Track Friday from a New Jersey man named Eric Rubinson, who started this ever-growing idea in 2012 right after Superstorm Sandy hit.
While Thanksgiving continued to be suffocated from the Black Friday hysteria, Rubinson set out to raise money for a local food bank in an attempt to reallocate money that was being spent in malls the day after the holiday.
“It’s really grown from there,” said the Trumbull resident and Cornwall, England, native. “He has three going on in New Jersey, one in his hometown, and a few others around this area.
“This will be the first in Trumbull — the first in all of Connecticut — so there’s a great reason to be excited,” she said.
As with any first-year event, Langan isn’t setting the bar too high. She said she hopes to see a turnout of 100-plus people and that she’s already received donations from 50 people.
“I figure with those 50, if they bring their families and friend, then we could get to over 100 people at the track,” she said.
“I really just want to create something that brings the community together at the same place, at the same time, over the weekend of Thanksgiving,” she said, hinting that she’d like this become an annual tradition in town.
Any charity, any time
Flexibility is a crucial element to Track Friday in its first year.
In addition to giving participants the choice to walk or run, Langan said, those who attend may walk or run for any given amount of time — and at any length — that morning.
“There’s no set length,” she said. “People can run at any increment, for any amount of time. …
It’ll be a good way for them to walk or run off the turkey from the day before.”
While there’s no set length or time, participants are also given complete freedom as to what charity they’d like to donate toward this holiday season — a luxury that’s not always extended at certain events this time of year.
“Having that flexibility is a huge plus,” she said. “There’s absolutely no restriction.”
“The money raised is not going to one specific area,” she added. “You can donate to wherever you want — choose any charity.”
Word of mouth
Langan, whose son attends Frenchtown Elementary School, said she’s had friends distributing flyers in all the schools and to all the parents of cross country runners, who she hopes will see it and join the event.
Besides putting flyers around town, and at the end of the trail, she’s been relying on word of mouth and social media to generate buzz among residents.
She said the money raised is a big deal for those in need, and the total raised would surprise some.
“The national Track Friday event in New Jersey has already raised $20,000, and ours here in Trumbull is already up to $2,000 raised — and that’s before the event has even started,” she said.
“I’m hoping over the next couple of days even more people hear about it and jump on board,” she added.
“They don’t even have to come to the track — I have family in England who’s donating money from abroad.”
Unsurprisingly, the biggest hurdle she’s facing isn’t raising money for charity; rather, it’s getting people to understand the premise of the event.
“There are so many charities out there that need support, and I think that when you say to someone, ‘You can give to any charity,’ it’s a bit confusing,” she explained.
Nonetheless, she’s been encouraged by the support she’s already received from friends and family — here and abroad — as well as the backing she’s received from the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, which helped her secure the track for the day after Thanksgiving.
“Getting the track was the biggest part,” she said. “It’s nice having the town on board and having them understand my vision for this. …
“I would love to have it become an annual thing,” she added. “I think it’s a good message to the kids — you have Thanksgiving and then you give back, all while being surrounded by family and friends and being healthy.
“That’s the tradition we should be building up, not Black Friday.”
To donate to H4Fitness, the event’s sponsor, go its fund-raising page, www.razoo.com/team/trackfriday2015.
H4Fitness will be supporting three selected charities — CMAK Foundation, Hole in the Wall Gang, and Dana Farber Children’s Hospital — this holiday season, while encouraging participants to donate to any charity they choose.
Langan said that if a participant's charity is not set up on the homepage, the person can create one that allows others to start donating to it.
“It’s very user-friendly and very safe,” she said.
For more information, contact Heidi at Hljt43@gmail.com or go to www.trackfriday.com and follow H4Fitness and Track Friday on Facebook.