Dozens of volunteers from across the Farmington Valley participated in the 20th Annual Jack Bannan's Turkey Trot food drive for Foodshare on Wednesday. Their goal this year: 3,500 turkeys and 2,400 lbs. of non-perishable food items. Last year the group also received $15,000 in cash donations.
The preliminary count for Wednesday's collection included 2,149 frozen turkeys and $14,000 in donations, according to volunteer Harolyn Erickson. A tally for the non-perishable food collection won't be available until donations from all the area schools have been received.
The Turkey Trot was started 20 years ago by Jack Bannan, a Simsbury resident and World War II veteran and prisoner of war. Now the event is organized by Bannan's daughter, Marianne Bannan.
"He heard that Foodshare was going to miss their goal by about 3,000 turkeys back in 1993," Bannan said."He thought that it was ridiculous that anyone in this area would be going hungry."
That was the first year for Jack Bannan's Turkey Trot, a food drive before the Thanksgiving holiday that now includes businesses and schools in the towns of Avon, Canton, Simsbury, and Granby and donations that come from all over the state.
"We are the largest single-day collection event for Foodshare," Marianne Bannan said.
This year the Turkey Trot received an unexpected delivery of 125 turkeys from Westminster School, which is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year. The Westiminster Community Service program, basketball team and the Serving Our Neighbors student volunteer group contributed to the the collection.
Simsbury public and parochial schools, Avon High School, and Granby High School have also been big supporters of the food drive over the years.
Donations of turkeys and non-perishable food items were collected at stores across the Farmington Valley and Bloomfield. The stores are ShopRite of Canton, Fitzgerald's of Simsbury, Miller Foods of Avon, Stop & Shop of Simsbury & Granby, Geissler's of Granby & Bloomfield, Kane's Market of Simsbury, and Big Y of Avon.
In 2011 the drive collected over 3,300 frozen turkeys and $15,000 in donations to Foodshare. This year the event's organizers hope to collect 3,500 turkeys and 2,400 pounds of non-perishable food items.
Simsbury Selectmen Sean Askham and Nancy Haase were also on hand to help unload turkeys and other food at the school on Wednesday.
Gerard Buffo, professor of health sciences at the University of Hartford, arrived at the school with a truckload of frozen turkeys he collected from some of the participating grocery stores.
"It's going great so far. We got 125 from Westminster and that's brand new this year," Bannan said Wednesday morning.
Erickson said there's still a chance they will meet their goal for the year once the remaining donations are received.