"It just feels like more than ever families need food," said Melissa Mills, program coordinator for the center. "People are having a hard time making ends meet so this year we wanted to make that push."
The Thanksgiving Day Run and Food Drive is also essential to the Community Center.
"We're suffering in this hard economy like everyone else," said Megan Nordvedt, executive director of the Community Center. "It's hard to compete with all the other really important fundraisers in the area. For us to put on an event like this — that's so different and such a tradition — it's easy for people to be apart of this. You don't have to write a big check or wear a tux; we're not a gala. This is a fun event for the entire family and the entire community."
Runners pay an entry fee of $25 or $30 (depending on when they registered), while kids 10-and-under pay $10 to $15 for the one-mile kids run. Expectations are this will be the center's largest fundraiser of the year yet again with approximately 1,400 to 1,600 runners competing, Mills said.
Out of the 1,000 plus runners, Zack Torres, a 20-year old sophomore on UCLA's track and field team, finished first in this year's race.
Going on 17 years, the run and food drive has become a La Cañada tradition but it's not exclusive. The small-town convention has become a family ritual for father and son Nabil and Ryan Assaf.
"We live in La Crescenta but my boy always wants to come," Nabil Assaf said.
Nabil and Ryan Assaf are both seasoned veterans of the holiday 5K, running it the past five years.
"Even though we don't live here it's a nice tradition and a nice event," Nabil Assaf said. "You do it once and you feel like it's a worthy cause."
Mills said the food drive serves as a perfect reminder of the true meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday.
"It's so important to remember the meaning behind Thanksgiving," Mills said. "It's easy to think of it as a holiday about turkey, food and football, but it's really about giving back and giving thanks — that's what we're doing here."