Benne Anderson to Lead GRPS Turkey Trot as Honorary Race Director
| 4 min read
Over the past three decades, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Turkey Trot has grown to more than 5,000 runners and their cheerleaders. This year, the race will see a record number of registrants; more than 2,000 and counting.
The family-friendly 5k event in downtown Grand Rapids on Thanksgiving morning is hosted by the Grand Rapids Public Schools and the GRPS Foundation. Money raised directly benefits GRPS student athletes.
As organizers gear up for the annual run’s 31st year, they are welcoming a new face to the Turkey Trot family, honorary race director Benne Anderson.
The GRPS alum had a phenomenal career running track at Ottawa Hills High School. Before graduating this year, Anderson was a state champion in the 1600-meters, and he is fourth-fastest in the nation in the 1600- and 3200-meter runs. Anderson’s 800-meter run is the eighth-fastest time in the country.
“Benne has now taken his ambitions and talents to the Syracuse University track team, and we can’t wait to see the impact he will make there,” said Kurt Johnson, executive director of athletics and dual enrollment for GRPS.
Anderson, who was named Michigan’s Gatorade Boys Track and Field Player of the Year in 2023, says the support of the GRPS community, his coaches and the parents who volunteered their time at the meets played an important role in his success.
“Thanks to all the support from families within GRPS, my friends and my coaches, I was able to make running an actual career,” Anderson said. “It took a lot of time and dedication from a lot of people – a lot of unpaid hours by parent volunteers setting up tents at meets and driving kids and all that the small stuff that people kind of tend to forget, which is honestly probably the more important stuff.”
Community support for children
The Turkey Trot is a tradition that embodies the West Michigan spirit of supporting the children in the community, says Dr. Leadriane Roby, GRPS superintendent,
“We know that students who participate in sports perform better in almost every way,” Roby said. “They get better grades, higher scores, and they learn how to connect with one another in more meaningful ways. We've seen our athletes go on to lead in this community, and that is all thanks to the support from events like Turkey Trot.”
The funds raised support the district’s commitment to giving students the opportunity to play school sports regardless of the financial situation at home.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are a longtime presenting sponsor of Turkey Trot.
“At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we also see being a partner in Turkey Trot as a critical way to encourage kids and their families to engage in regular exercise, which lowers blood pressure, stress levels and, of course, increases self-esteem,” said Jeff Connolly, president of West Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
He added that research shows physically active children have a reduced risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes for the rest of their life.
Showcase for community
The event has grown into a tradition in which friends, neighbors and employers invite their networks to attend to spend Thanksgiving morning as a community, celebrating a beautiful downtown.
“While we are true advocates of improving health and wellness for all, we are also engaged in this event as a platform to invite more people from all backgrounds downtown to experience our great city,” Connolly said.
Another supporter of the Turkey Trot is Thomas Kelley, assistant men’s basketball coach at Michigan State University, who also got his start at GRPS. His love of the sport began in elementary school. He went on to play for Union High School before playing for MSU, which won two Big Ten championships.
“I always tell every young student athlete to find your passion early and go after it. That's what I did,” said Kelley, who recently spoke to students about the importance of striving toward goals.
Anderson says he’s honored to be part of the tradition of GRPS athletic achievement. His advice for those who want to follow a similar path is to have fun.
“Honestly, all that really matters is you should be doing something that you're enjoying, and if you're enjoying it and you're dedicating time to it, you will improve,” Anderson said. “If you really liked doing it, then you should do it, even if you may not be as good as I am. There's plenty of things that I enjoy that I know others are way better than me, but I'm just gonna go do it. It's fun for me, and I love that.”
Photo credit: Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation