As a member of the Holy Family School Board of Directors, I had been dispatched to meet “the new guy”. Father Mike Michie had arrived in McKinney in 2006 to start the new church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal in McKinney. As a good board member, my objective was clear; meet, greet, and invite Father Michie to help with fundraising for Holy Family School. Father Mike was a pleasure to meet and he said that not only would he help out with the school, but he mentioned that had someone who he wanted me to meet.
At our next meeting, Father Mike introduced Gigi Bonham. We hit it off at once, and I remember thinking —“she would make a great volunteer to help with school fund raisers.” I made my approach, and Bonham said “I want to have a race through McKinney that will raise money and have an amazing reputation. It should compete with the Turkey Trot in Dallas.”
I love enthusiasm, but color me skeptical. I had never been involved in a race in any way, knew nothing about runners and less about how to make money at it. I soon found Bonham's enthusiasm, ideas, organization and gift of gratitude were hard to resist.
"When I found out the history of that amazing school (Holy Family) my heart just thought how awful it would be to have to drop your babies off somewhere that was not exceptional, but was all you could afford. It broke my heart. I read the mission, history and then visited Holy Family School with Father Mike. I saw those sweet little faces and knew we had to do something and the Believe! concept was literally built on prayer and love," Bonham said, explaining that the organizers had no funds to get the idea off the ground.
Now in year seven, the Believe! race takes place the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend at 7 a..m. Attracting over 1000 registered runners, the course mapped by Ned Searles of McKinney is noted for its beauty and difficulty.
The 10K winds through the historical district, and around Towne Lake. The 5K route runs on Louisiana and Virginia. In order to include everyone who would like to participate in some way, there is also a one-mile family fun walk/run.
Believe! is not only about running. The festivities include the Great Santa Chase, (with Santa looking very similar to our own Mayor Loughmiller), an aerobic warm up, and a downtown awards ceremony. Hundreds of volunteers join us on race day. We take great pride in being part of Dickens of a Christmas and work closely with McKinney Main Street organization. The City of McKinney, from the police, to the operations people, to the fire department, have been great to work with every year.
The race has raised thousands of dollars for the scholarship program at Holy Family School. The school is a McKinney treasure and the oldest pre-school in Collin County. The staff work with families to be sure that they can afford the modest tuition. Working closely with churches, The Samaritan Inn and Child Protection Services, the school has helped many students get off to a solid start while allowing parents a chance to go to work knowing that their child is in a safe and loving environment. The school boasts award-winning programs and currently has a waiting list for full tuition students and the new nursery.
Now I can’t imagine Thanksgiving weekend without the race. Families have made it an annual tradition! I have watched my own son go from cheering at the finish line to having a team for the 5K this year. Cheering at the finish line is my favorite part as runners take the last part of the race and realize for the first time there is a hill on Louisiana going into the downtown, making the triumph at the finish line all the sweeter.
See you there!! Start your own tradition.