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On LI, Thanksgiving brings a bowl game, a 5K run and a soup-kitchen dinner

Friends and neighbors of Ray Terken watch the

Friends and neighbors of Ray Terken watch the Turkey Bowl in East Setauket on Nov. 27, 2014. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Long Islanders celebrated Thanksgiving with a neighborhood football game in Setauket, a 5K run in Oyster Bay and a meal for people who are less fortunate at a soup kitchen in Hempstead.

What started as family football and feast eight years ago in the Terkens' Setauket home has ballooned into the block party of the season, with about 85 guests Thursday in what's dubbed the "Turkey Bowl."

There's ladies' football, men's football, an MVP pick and schoolboys spontaneously tossing a pigskin in the streets, a tailgate-ish atmosphere with mimosas, bagels, cocoa and Christmas carols as a bonfire crackles in the front yard.

In the back, a makeshift football field has gotten more elaborate every year. Yard and goal lines were painted on the grass, given a buzz cut. Three "referees" in jerseys and black running pants blew whistles. The "media presence" on the sideline, a family friend, wore a convincing homemade press pass and toted around a camera in a professional-looking case.

This year, "instant replay" was added -- a television with those words on a paper sign.

Turkey Bowl host and self-proclaimed "commish" Ray Terken said this all takes the "ho hum" out of what can be a sedentary holiday. "All the kids that come home from college get to see their friends," Ray Terken said. "It's just become a real tradition. Everyone loves it."

His daughters said they appreciated Turkey Bowl more this year. They all attend upstate SUNY Oneonta, and twins Kelly and Bridget are 18 and away from home for the first time, while sis Tricia is 20.

"I definitely missed home a lot," Bridget Terken said. "I was excited to come back to this."

In the spirit of adding something each year, Ray Terken said, he'll ask everyone next year to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to a local church.

It's a tight neighborhood, where families take turns hosting Sunday football and catch-up every Sunday.

"Everybody who comes ends up coming back the next year," the Turkey Bowl commish said. "It's not so much about the football. The adults and kids all get together and get to see each other before they go off for the holidays." Grateful for the run

In a land full of fresh drinking water, world-class runner Stephen Sambu raced in the Oyster Bay Turkey Trot to get clean water in his native Kenya and broke a record he set last year for the fastest 5K run on Long Island.

"I knew it," he said. "The weather was nice."

His time of 13:42 washed away his 14:03 at the trot last year, which flushed the previous record of 14:43, set in 2009.

Sambu set this year's fastest 10K run with his 27:25 victory at the Boston Athletic Association's race, which he also won last year.

This year in Oyster Bay, a fellow professional runner from Kenya joined him in the cause and race -- Lawi Lalang, who came in second at 14:03. Both have won several prestigious races in this country and set records.

Clean water has been a cause for Sambu, who said many Kenyans' only option is to cook and clean with groundwater tainted with dirt and roadway trash. He was hospitalized just once because of bad water, he said, but it's common for people to get sick, and some have died.

Nutrition for the soul

It wasn't just turkeys and fixings served up at a Hempstead soup kitchen, but hugs and reminders of their own luck were dished out to volunteers with the Interfaith Nutrition Network.

"It's the whole spirit of giving back," said Ashley Folds, of Jamaica, Queens, helping out with her Zeta Phi Beta sorority sisters from the SUNY Old Westbury chapter.

As 200 or so diners chowed down, she scanned the room for gift boxes assembled by Girl Scouts and schoolchildren to distribute to the youngsters.

"It makes you appreciate what you have in your life," Folds said.

It took a village to make the meal. A donor contributed $10,000. Fifty volunteers from Maria Regina Roman Catholic Church in Seaford cooked 100 donated turkeys in their home kitchens. Schoolchildren and the Girl Scouts also decorated place mats and cheerful holiday signs.

INN Executive Director Jean Kelly said the private social service agency's philosophy emphasizes a safe and egalitarian experience. The diners are called guests, and no questions are asked of anyone who shows up for a meal, Kelly said.

"Everyone presumes people who eat in soup kitchens are homeless, but less than 10 percent are," she said, adding that senior citizens and families are a large part of the group.

Russ Ireland, co-owner of the Martin Viette Nurseries in East Norwich that has hosted fundraisers for the INN, said three years ago he decided to up the commitment by volunteering.

"It's a good feeling to serve people who are less fortunate," Ireland said. "It's so easy to stay home and serve your own family. But coming here really evens things up, and warms your heart."

With Sophia Chang


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