CRYSTAL LAKE – Hundreds of people clad in Santa suits ran a 5K loop around downtown Crystal Lake on Sunday morning, some accompanied by their dogs – and one pulled in a carriage by a mini horse.
The second annual Kiwanis Santa Run for Kids attracted 965 participants, organizer Mike Splitt said, but the mini horse was unique.
When Carol Swinford of Hebron said she wanted to bring Buddy – and she would be dressed as Mrs. Claus – Splitt said he initially thought it was a joke. But Swinford was serious and the Santa Run was actually the third 5K for Buddy, who stands 33 inches tall.
It took a few emails back and forth with the city, but Buddy was eventually given the go-ahead.
A horse was a fitting participant considering the run benefits The Light Center/Main Stay, an animal-assisted therapeutic riding program.
Other beneficiaries are Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls on the Run, Turning Point, and CASA of McHenry County.
“Not a dime leaves the county,” Splitt said.
In addition to the 5K, kids could participate in a 1-mile run. Ten-year-old William Wickersty of Crystal Lake crossed the finish line in under eight minutes, but was barely winded when he immediately turned around and continued cheering on the kids who finished after him.
“Come on, reindeer!” he yelled at the kids wearing antlers behind him.
“I was a little nervous because me and my sister have a lot of competitiveness,” he said. Next year, he plans to up his distance and run the 5K.
Wickersty’s enthusiasm was shared by Shawn Tegtmeier of Crystal Lake, who was personally recruited by Splitt for her cheering abilities. Standing next to the timer, Tegtmeier was as excited for the first runner to finish as she was for the last walker to cross the line, her jingle bell bracelets and earrings ringing each time she jumped up and down.
“I love running, and I always remember what it was like at my first runs,” she said.
Luke Ivey of Rome, Ga., was in town visiting his girlfriend for the Thanksgiving holiday. Pinned to the back of his Santa suit was a sign that said “CASA – giving children a voice.”
His girlfriend’s mother is involved with CASA, he said, and running the race also was a good way to stay in shape. He said he’d do it again if he’s in town next year.
“I like that it’s a community event and it’s a kickoff for the holiday season,” Ivey said. “It seems like it has a lot of support. It was well organized and was a good course.”