The Heart of Thanksgiving: GRPS Turkey Trot and Benne Anderson’s Legacy


Registration for the 31st annual Turkey Trot in Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is surging, and it’s no surprise. This event has become a beloved Thanksgiving Day tradition that unites the community.

It is a heartwarming event that brings together students, teachers, GRPS staff, and families from all over the area. It’s a celebration of fitness, unity, and charitable giving. What started as a local tradition on Thanksgiving morning has grown into West Michigan’s largest 5K race, symbolizing unity, wellness, and community support within the GRPS community.

This week, we had the privilege of speaking with Benne Anderson, a standout 2023 GRPS alumni and track star. He is not just a remarkable athlete with multiple state championships, but also a symbol of dedication and excellence. Anderson’s accolades include holding the top times in the state for the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m. Graduating from City High School, he ranked as the 4th fastest in the nation in both the 1600m and 3200m. His 800m run also stands as the 8th fastest time in the country this year. His passion for running didn’t end at GRPS; he’s now a valuable member of the Syracuse University track team.

Anderson’s journey in running began in 7th grade for fun, inspired by his sister’s involvement and his father’s love for the sport. When asked about his most memorable athletic achievement from high school, he struggled to pick just one. What stood out was a meet in Terre Haute for NXR Midwest Regional with his friends, but the bulk of his senior year track season was amazing.

Photo: Dan Ebright

His coach, Dan Ebright, and his father, Donovan Anderson, played pivotal roles in his athletic development. Coach Ebright provided him with the knowledge and plan to grow, while his Dad kept him honest about the effort he was putting into the sport.

Anderson’s story is not just about individual excellence; it’s also about the power of community and teamwork. When asked about pivotal moments in high school sports, he spoke about the motivation to match the high school times of his role models, which drove him to cultivate his skills.

His teammates were integral in keeping him on track. His teammate, Liam Walters, trained alongside him, pushing each other through rain or shine. This camaraderie was essential during the stressful race days. Despite having a small team at GRPS, their tight-knit community provided invaluable support and encouragement for everyone.

High school athletics played a huge role in Anderson’s decision to continue running in college. The support he received from his community and the people around him was a driving force to pursue his passion.

Leadership and wellness are key aspects of high school sports, according to Anderson. Leadership, in his view, isn’t just about discipline and rule enforcement; it’s about ensuring the happiness and health of the community. Maintaining both physical and mental wellness is essential when competing. However, the transition from high school to college sports can be challenging, as there is often less guidance. Consistency in maintaining healthy habits becomes even more crucial.

High school sports also taught Anderson important values and life lessons. One of the core lessons he shared is to “keep your head up” and believe in your abilities.

As for preparation for collegiate sports, high school did an okay job. Anderson emphasized the importance of gradually working up to the demands of college athletics to ensure a smooth transition and avoid injuries.

Photo: Emily Loeks

In conclusion, Anderson’s high school experiences have made him strong and ambitious, providing a solid foundation for his goals in both athletics and academics. The GRPS Turkey Trot exemplifies the spirit of unity, wellness, and giving back, and with role models like Benne Anderson, students are inspired to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle.

Moreover, the Turkey Trot isn’t just a fun run; it’s a philanthropic mission. It serves as one of GRPS’ primary fundraisers, reinforcing the values of empathy and compassion. The 5K route takes participants through the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, and there’s a Mini Trot for kids aged 12 and under, adding to the inclusivity of the event. The race is proudly presented by Blue Care Network of Michigan, a long-standing sponsor.

The Grand Rapids Public Schools Turkey Trot’s goal for this year is to host 5,000 runners and walkers. Registration fees are $35 before the race day and $40 on the day of the race. The event will take place on Thanksgiving at 8:30 a.m., promising a morning of health, fitness, and community. Anyone interested in participating in the race can sign up to be part of this meaningful tradition.