An evening of grassroots giving 

Good Dirt

click to enlarge The author (left) and running club member Shawn Finley pose to promote giving. - TIM BERGSTEN
  • Tim Bergsten
  • The author (left) and running club member Shawn Finley pose to promote giving.

He wore a wonderful fur coat, thick and gray. It was a little ragged perhaps, but it appeared to be warm. A handsome and brave fellow, he walked right up our gravel driveway on an icy Christmas Eve night. Hunger had brought him there, and I'm sure the smells of fresh milk coming from our family's dairy were more than he could resist.

We knew what he wanted, though he kept to the shadows at the edge of our barnyard light. We collected a pan of warm milk and sat it out away from the house. With the lights from our Christmas tree glowing on our faces, we watched the old coyote drink his milk and then trot away into his dark, winter haunts.

My childhood Christmas memories are, for the most part, good memories. But those days were not easy. My folks tried hard to scratch out a living on the dairy. The work never ended, money was short, and the cold made it difficult for everyone — the cows, coyotes, and the people.

I'll never forget one Christmas-shopping trip to Sears or maybe JCPenney in Colorado Springs. A check or two had bounced, they wouldn't accept another, and we drove home empty-handed. Oh, there were always Christmas presents. Santa Claus came every year. But from a young age I could sense my parents' stress around the holidays. We had lots of fun, and our tiny four-room farmhouse billowed with love. But beneath the surface ...

Fast forward to the fall of 2012. Shawn Finley, then the president of the Jack Quinn's Running Club, called and asked if my small business PikesPeakSports.us, a website for runners, would like to host the Jack Quinn's Running Club Christmas party. Easy answer: yes! We made our plans and realized that our organizations could do more than run and drink beer. We could collect toys and food for folks less fortunate than ourselves. We did well that first year, collecting a pickup-load of toys and about 800 pounds of food.

It's a personal deal for me. Each year since, Shawn and I have posed for a photo in front of the toys you all have generously donated. I'm smiling in the photos, but I'm also fighting back tears because I know what this means to kids and their parents. And whether you celebrate a traditional Christmas, or you're just in it for the pretty lights and hot chocolate, giving something, anything, is what's important.

In this land of plenty, every child should wake up to presents under the Christmas tree. And there is no reason — no excuse — for our neighbors to ever go hungry.

The running club has now taken on the party organization, and I get to do the fun stuff, which is to tell you how it's going down. This year's Jack Quinn's Running Club Christmas Bash is set for 5:15 p.m., Dec. 13, at City Auditorium. We're collecting toys for the Bob Telmosse Foundation, and food for Care and Share Food Bank.

If you're reading this, you are invited. There is no running required. This is a grassroots affair of everyday people striving to do some good. Dress up in your running gear, or your fancy holiday clothes. It's all good. All we ask is that you bring a new toy or two, or non-perishable food items, canned goods, dry cereal. Cash donations are also welcome.

The late Bob Telmosse served in the Air Force and was stationed at Peterson Air Force Base. He later became a successful businessmen. Longtime residents may remember his Denver Warehouse TV commercials. Telmosse started the toy drive in 1983, making this year the 34th for the annual Santa Bob Christmas Giveaway. Check out santa-bob.org for more information about contributing, or receiving toys.

Here is the lowdown on the food piece: I called Eric Pizana, the community outreach guy at Care and Share last week. It made my day to hear the excitement in his voice when I told him we'd again be collecting food. And he is fired up for good reason. Check out these statistics from a Care and Share survey. In our community and throughout Southern Colorado, one is seven people is food insecure, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from. One in five kids is at risk of going hungry today. There were 134,000 people served by Care and Share last year, but 161,000 needed help. Visit Care and Share's website for more info, at careandshare.org.

I write about amazing people — outdoor types— who do amazing things, running fast, riding farther, climbing higher. They inspire me, because if they can do it, then we mortals can also aspire to great things.

But I'm convinced that there is no greater act than giving to people — or to hungry coyotes — who need help.


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