The Best and Longest Running Thanksgiving Tradition in Northern Indiana

  2015 marks the 12th running of the I’mThankful Four Run benefitting  the Kelsey Mikel Scholarship Foundation. This run originally started as a group run in Wakarusa, IN on Thanksgiving morning to avoid driving up to Niles, MI to find a Thanksgiving run.  This started in 2001 by Mark Mikel who was my high school cross country coach. Entry fee back then was to just bring some canned goods in for the local food pantry. We would meet, go around and state what we we’re thankful for and go out and run a four mile country loop. 

In August of 2004, Mark’s daughter, Kelsey was tragically killed in a car accident while she was on her way to pick up a friend to go to a high school football game. Before the accident, Kelsey chose to be an organ donor and her organs have had a huge impact on countless number of lives including saving a couple of children’s lives. 

After the accident, a scholarship Foundation was established in Kelsey’s memory and on Thanksgiving Morning, the first I’m Thankful Four, benefitting the Kelsey Mikel Scholarship Foundation was run in Wakarusa.  In recent years, the event has moved to Nappanee, IN at NorthWood High School.

There is no chip timing, no official results, and no age group awards.  The only awards are for beating your designated turkey in the four mile run.  A male turkey, a female turkey,  and a butterball turkey (on the honor system that you weigh over 200 lbs) were designated. If you beat the turkey of your gender, you won a special award. Awards have been items such as hoodies, duffle bags, beanies, and long sleeve tech shirts. This year was a hoodie. 

 Over the last 11 years, the run has continued to grow and help raise money for scholarships as well as awareness for organ donations. Mark and Kathy have become spokesmen for IOPO over they years. With growth and other logistics have come a few changes over the years. The course now includes running by the Nappanee golf course (Kelsey was on the high school golf team), the finish line of the cross country course where Kelsey would stand during meets as a cross country manager, and run through Little Paws Park which Kelsey helped build. Something else that had to change 10 years ago was that we can’t go around and say what each of us are thankful for. Kathy has refused to let the tradition die however. Before every Thankful Four, Mark leads the group in shout out loud as one what we are thankful for.

This is more than a race for me.  This is really the only day out of the year that I see  some from around the state and country.


 As for the run itself, it was a beautiful day for a run.  50 degrees, and overcast.  Only negative was a stronger wind out of the south.  My legs from the beginning did not feel strong and my mile splits showed it.  Basically my legs have not recovered from the early November marathons.  Finishing time was 25:34 which is 34 seconds slower than last year.  Finished 4th overall. If there were age groups, I would have probably won my division.  Tina also did the two mile with the kids.   

 Looking forward to the 13th Annual Thankful Four next year.

  2015 race shirt 
  Watch given to every runner entered.


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