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Huntington woman marks 40 years of spearheading town's annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot

Bea Hartigan, left, and Alice Marie Rorke, executive

Bea Hartigan, left, and Alice Marie Rorke, executive director of the Townwide Fund of Huntington, which sponsors an annual Turkey Trot. Hartigan has been instrumental in creating and managing the annual charity run for decades. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Early on Thanksgiving morning Huntington resident Bea Hartigan will be where she has been for the past 40 years, and it’s not in her kitchen. That comes later.

At 7 a.m., she’ll arrive at the start line for the Townwide Fund of Huntington’s traditional Thanks4Giving Day Charity Run at the American Legion Hall on Mill Dam Road in Huntington. The run starts at 9 a.m. Hartigan, 80, has been instrumental in creating and managing the annual four-mile run for decades. The day also includes a children’s fun run.

"On the morning of Thanksgiving, I’ll be showing up early," Hartigan said. "And I’ll be at the race until the very end."

The Townwide Fund of Huntington was founded in 1961 by Huntington residents who wanted to assist local charities by raising funds from within the community. Since that time the organization has raised more than $14 million dollars in grants for the Huntington community.

Currently, more than 33 local charitable organizations, from food pantries to veterans groups, are partnered with the Townwide Fund of Huntington, said Alice Marie Rorke, executive director of the Townwide Fund.

This year marks the 50th year that Hartigan has served as a member of the Townwide Fund of Huntington board of directors. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic Hartigan's dedication never wavered. She attended board meetings via phone and Zoom and was always ready to help, organization officials said.

After a forced hiatus last year due to the pandemic, the run returns Thursday. The run has grown from a few hundred people to up to 2,000 in recent years, Hartigan said.

"What has been wonderful to see is that people have embraced it over the years," Hartigan said. "What is really wonderful is seeing that we have three and sometimes four generations showing up, some dressed for the occasion in costumes; it’s a family thing."

Rorke said the run is the organization's second-largest fundraiser after its annual gala, which is planned for June 9 at Oheka Castle.

"We rely on the generosity of the community and it's important to know that this run helps so many of our health and human service agencies sustain their community programs," Rorke said. The run raised over $45,000 in 2019, she said.

Lonnie Sherman, founder of East Northport based-General Needs, a nonprofit that works to assist homeless veterans and veterans in need by providing new clothing, cold weather items, footwear and toiletries, said the Townwide Fund is simply "awesome." He said he has partnered with the organization for about five years and in that time the Townwide Fund has donated over $20,000 to his organization.

"If it wasn’t for the Townwide Fund dozens of veterans in need in Huntington wouldn’t have a new coat, boots or sneakers this year," Sherman said.

And central to that mission is Hartigan, who is a mother of one, grandmother to four and widow to Arthur who died this spring. She’s also a familiar face to generations of area residents whom she taught how to swim in open water. But this Thanksgiving she’ll once again be presiding over the Thanksgiving Day run wearing her signature straw hat. As for the big meal later?

"My assignment for the Thanksgiving meal will remain as it’s been: I’ll be making the gravy and stuffing."

Thanks4Giving Run

It’s not too late to join the fun. The day starts at 8:30 a.m. with the children’s Fun Run followed by “The Comeback Run” at 9 a.m., rain or shine. The Fun Run fee is $10 for each child and the 4M Run/Walk is $25 per person in advance and $40 per person on the day of the run. The run will start at the American Legon Hall, 1 Mill Dam Rd. at the intersection of New York Avenue and Mill Dam Road.

To register go to: https://events.elitefeats.com/twf21

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