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Monday, October 29, 2012

Santa Fund, season off with a bang

NASHUA – It was a blur of pointed ears and festive-colored stripes as more than 500 of Santa’s helpers gathered Sunday to lend support to The Telegraph Santa Fund at the 36th annual Santa Fund Run at Nashua High School South.

Individuals, teams and families raced through the 5K or 10K courses beginning and ending on the track of Nashua South. Any person of any age was permitted to register and the race featured runners as young as 3 and as old as 85. ...

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NASHUA – It was a blur of pointed ears and festive-colored stripes as more than 500 of Santa’s helpers gathered Sunday to lend support to The Telegraph Santa Fund at the 36th annual Santa Fund Run at Nashua High School South.

Individuals, teams and families raced through the 5K or 10K courses beginning and ending on the track of Nashua South. Any person of any age was permitted to register and the race featured runners as young as 3 and as old as 85.

Mixed in with the running attire and fluorescent colors were 500 sets of pointed ears attached to red and green striped hats.

The elf-themed attire was symbolic of the Telegraph Santa Fund, a Nashua-based organization headed by Telegraph publisher Terry Williams. Williams, who raced alongside other charitable runners, said he was very happy with the outcome of the event.

“We had a great turnout, great weather and avoided a snowstorm. We are very appreciative of the people who came out; the families that participated, the toys and gifts that were given and the donations that were made will all be a wonderful kick-off for the Santa Fund,” Williams said.

The Telegraph Santa Fund is a charitable organization founded in 1961 by The Telegraph as a conduit to provide donations of clothing, money and gifts to area families who don’t posses the means to provide happy holidays themselves. Two Nashua organizations, the Front Door Agency and Salvation Army, work within the community to disperse the donations to needy families. In 2011, more than $118,000 and thousands of gifts were donated to 1,136 families and 2,348 children in the Nashua area.

Williams issued a surprise this year, in the form of the “Santa Elf’s Challenge.” The challenge stated that anyone who finished ahead of Williams would have $25 donated in his or her name to the Santa Fund from the proceeds of the race.

Williams said the Santa Fund is an invaluable resource for the Nashua community. “We serve several thousand families a year with the gifts, clothing and toys that they may not be able to provide for themselves. We’re very lucky to have two great partners to work with that help to disperse all of these things prior to the holidays. The Telegraph is just a conduit, it’s the generosity of everybody that gives to it that makes it work.”

Just as pleased with the outcome of the event were the runners, many of whom said they knew families who could benefit from the donations but would be embarrassed to accept gifts from someone they knew.

“The Santa Fund is great, the run is just a bonus. I think we all know someone that could benefit from something like the Santa Fund. We work with the public, and here and there we see someone who could use a hand,” said Paul and Teri Welch, owners of Agway in Dover.

The Keeley family, Jim and Laura and their son, Connor, ran the 5K as a team, coming out on the cool day to get some exercise and to support the charity.

Jim Keeley described the run as a marker for the beginning of the holiday season. “You can see the good it does, and it’s becoming the time of year where people want to help and the Santa Fund helps that,” he said.

Connor, age 13 and a cross country runner, spoke plainly about the charity. “I feel like it really helps the community because there are a lot of people who just can’t afford to get presents, and it’s really nice that other people can help and pitch in.”

Though many of the runners attended out of charity, there were a few racers in the group looking to win. Tammie Robie, 38, won the women’s 5K, finishing with a time of 18:05 on the 3.1 mile course and Jonathan Vinnenberg, 18, completed the course with a time of 16:22. Both runners set records for the 5K race.

In the end, a total of 581 runners crossed the finish line, the end of the race marking the beginning of the Santa Fund activities for the holiday season.

Needy families are invited to sign up for assistance at the Front Door Agency, 7 Concord St., on Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 5, 4-7 p.m. Sign-ups at the Salvation Army took place last week.

Applicants are asked not to bring children with them to register and to only sign up at one location.

Bring these items to sign up:

Photo ID.

Birth certificates for all children in the household and Social Security cards for adults.

Copy of your 2011 income tax return or verification of all household income such as pay stubs, TANF, SSI, etc.

Copy of your current lease.

Verification of your address, such as a utility bill, etc.

High school ID for children age 18.

Legal guardianship documents, if applicable.

To be eligible, families must meet these criteria:

A family of two must have an income of less than $37,600.

Family of three, less than $42,300.

Family of four, less than $47,000.

Family of five, less than $50,800.

Family of six, less than $54,550.

Family of seven, less than $58,300.

Families are eligible to receive benefits from The Telegraph Santa Fund for five years. The Santa Fund is managed by The Telegraph and donations are distributed by the Salvation Army and the Front Door Agency, formerly the Nashua Pastoral Care Center.

For more information, including how to donate, visit www.nashuatelegraph.com/santafund.

William Wrobel can be reached at 594-6426 or wwrobel@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Wrobel on Twitter (@Telegraph_WillW).