Take on the Father Joe’s Thanksgiving 5K in your own neighborhood

Craig Benedetto with the Father Joe's Thanksgiving 5K mascot.
(Karen Billing)

This year’s Father Joe’s Thanksgiving Day 5K on Nov. 26 will look a little different as a virtual event but the cause remains the same and the need just as critical.

Over 2,000 people are housed by Father Joe’s housing programs every night and nearly one million meals are served a year through their food service program. All proceeds from the virtual run, walk and turkey trot will go toward Father Joe’s Villages programs that help feed the some 7,600 neighbors in need who experience homelessness in this city.

Local resident Craig Benedetto has participated in the race nearly every year since it started 18 years ago.

“It’s an annual tradition,” Benedetto said. “It’s a good way to kick off Thanksgiving, burning off some calories before you start putting them back in. And it helps the homeless so it’s a win-win.”

When he lived downtown, he used to do the race solo. When he got married 11 years ago, he and his wife started doing the race together. When their son was born on Labor Day nine years ago, by Thanksgiving Day he was in the stroller for his first Father Joe’s 5K walk—the family, which includes his two stepdaughters, have all been doing it together ever since.

Typically Benedetto runs the 5K and loops back to meet up with his family and finish with them. In more recent years, his son has started taking up running with him.

He knows this year will be different and the holidays pose a sad reminder of where the country is in this pandemic, that people can’t be together during a season that revolves around gathering and giving back.

“I’m going to miss the energy of all the people in the 5K,” Benedetto said. He added that he will also miss being in Balboa Park, the creative costumes, seeing Deacon Jim Vargas, the president and CEO of Father Joe’s, and he will most miss seeing all of the graduates of the Father Joe’s programs.

Benedetto knows that many nonprofits have struggled during this time so he is doing his best to spread the word to get people to continue to sign up and support Father Joe’s.

A $35 virtual registration includes a t-shirt, bib number and a participant medal. People can choose their own route to run, walk or simply fundraise for the cause.

Per Father Joe’s website, a donation of $14 provides two weeks of meals for neighbors in need, $28 sponsors a Thanksgiving meal that will feed 24 people, $56 buys 48 meals for a veteran struggling on the streets and $112 pays for three meals a day for an entire week for a family of four.

Benedetto has mapped out a 3.5-mile course in his neighborhood of Santaluz for his family, uphill to start with a generous downhill finish. Due to the pandemic and the limitations on gatherings he expects there might be more leftovers than ever—it might call for running the race twice. All participants will have until Dec. 1 to sign up and get the miles in.

During non-pandemic times Benedetto travels downtown for work. He knows that many people in the North County area work downtown and may not have been going there for months due to the pandemic and it might be easy to forget about the challenges of the homeless because they aren’t seeing the conditions on the streets every day.

“People are still homeless and need a place to go, maybe now more than ever. Father Joe’s still needs our help,” Benedetto said. “Don’t forget about the homeless and don’t forget about Father Joe’s in the midst of this pandemic.”

To register, visit