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Counting blessings, clocking miles

Michael E. Bratton II Turkey Trot returns

Runners and walkers take to the 5k and 10k course around Nevada Union High School during the annual Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot in 2018.While the 2018 event saw some rain, and the 2019 event some snow, the 2022 event is expected to be sunny with pleasant temperatures.
Photo: Elias Funez file photo

Continuing what has become a holiday tradition for many in Nevada County, the 17th Annual Michael Edward Bratton II Turkey Trot will be held Thanksgiving morning at Nevada Union High School’s Hooper Stadium.

The event, organized each year by a team including the late Michael Bratton II’s family, will include a 5K walk, 5K run, and 10K run.

“It’s absolutely not too late to sign up,” said Michael Bratton, the Turkey Trot’s chief organizer and father of Michael Bratton. “You can sign up online at MEB2TurkeyTrot.com, or sign up on the morning of.”

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, followed by a kids race at 8:15 with the main event beginning at 8:30. Bratton said that approximately 1,400 people have already registered for the race, however only those who were able to register before November 15 will be receiving the event’s t-shirt.

Michael Bratton smiles as he provides comments on the public address system during the kids race held prior to the Turkey Trot. Proceeds from the race go towards depression and suicide prevention outlets.
Photo: Elias Funez file photo

The weather is expected to be mild, with temperatures hitting the high 60s throughout the day, a change of pace from some previous years where rain, wind, and sometimes snow made for more chilly conditions.

“A lot of people come out that morning and register or just give a donation,” said Bratton. “We’ll have bagels, fruit, hot chocolate.”

Bratton added that many local nonprofits and law enforcement organizations lend a helping hand on the day-of.

“We have 150 volunteers, everyone from our friends and Michael’s friends and high school football teams and cheer teams. Sierra College, Grass Valley Police Department, and CHP is wonderful.”

Nevada Union donates use of the stadium; event crew set and clean up the area and in turn donates back to the school’s football team, cheer squad, honors club, and more. Additionally, 50 percent of funds raised go to Anew Day Counseling Services, NEO Youth Center, Bright Futures for Youth, and a number of local churches for youth support.

Nevada City's Carlyle Miller ran the 2018 Turkey Trot in memory of Katy Martin, who had recently died. Others run the Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot in honor of lost loved ones.
Photo: Elias Funez file photo

The heart of the race, however, is honoring the memory of Michael E. Bratton II and raising mental health awareness.

“Michael took his life at the age of 25,” Bratton said, “so we want to help people. There is hope and there are tools to use so you can turn yourself around. Doctors help, (as well as) lifestyle changes.”

The family’s goal has been to erase stigma around mental illness and offer people help in traversing what can be a painful cycle for many.

“In 2006, we were the number one county in the state of California for suicides per capita,” Bratton said. “Today we are upwards of around 20. It’s a sickness that can be treated. People should not and do not want to be ashamed of it. It’s all positive.”

Though the Turkey Trot has been going on for 17 years, Bratton said the event is still emotional for him and his family.

“It’s extremely emotional. I’ve not yet been able to hold my composure when I give my talk, and I try. I miss him and it shouldn’t have been. It was a shock because he was extremely popular and a mentor.”

A family rounds the corner of the final leg of the course during the Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot at Hooper Stadium during the 2018 run.
Photo: Elias Funez file photo

With the flurry of activity leading up to and the day of the Turkey Trot, the begging question is: how do the Brattons celebrate Thanksgiving?

“We have about 25 people coming for dinner,” Bratton answered. “Everybody helps. Our family all comes and we celebrate and I try to get a nap in. The emotional part of (the race) drains you.

“It is not just to show support for mental health issues, but I get to see people I haven’t seen since last year. It’s the best way to start a truly Thanksgiving morning and to see friends and think about what you are thankful for. It’s a very generous community. I always say it’s like no other. Count our blessings.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the national Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 by dialing 988.

To reach staff writer Jennifer Nobles email jnobles@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4232.

Runners are elated as they approach the finish line of the annual Thanksgiving morning Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot.
Photo: Elias Funez file photo

WHAT: 17th Annual Michael Edward Bratton II Turkey Trot

WHERE: Hooper Stadium, Nevada Union High School, 11761 Ridge Road, Grass Valley

WHEN: Thursday, November 24, 2022

INFO: meb2turkeytrot.com or call (530) 278-8361

REGISTER: meb2turkeytrot.com – $25 ages 15+, $12 children 14 and under (no t-shirts available)

Jonathan Willis (from left), Savannah Morse, Jaime Willis, and Rob Huston get ready to run the annual Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot held at Nevada Union High School’s Hooper Stadium.
Photo: Elias Funez file photo

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