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story.lead_photo.caption Buster Lackey, executive director of the Lonoke County Council on Aging, has had a dream for a Santa Run fundraiser for years. On Saturday, the Santa Run 5K will take place in Cabot to support Meals on Wheels for the Council on Aging. - Photo by Angela Spencer

— Typically, Santa Claus is known for bringing gifts to little boys and girls. This year, dozens of Santas will bless senior citizens in Lonoke County by running in The Santa Run to raise funds for Meals on Wheels.

The Santa Run 5K, hosted by the Lonoke County Council on Aging, will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday, starting at the Cabot Senior Center, 600 N. Grant St. The run is one of a few fundraisers that will help keep the meals rolling, said Buster Lackey, LCCA executive director.

“Government funding is decreasing, and expenses are increasing,” Lackey said. “It’s all good when you can add people on to feed and take care of, but you have to add staff to do that. This is one of the fundraisers that we have set up to help with that.”

Meals on Wheels in Lonoke County has a waiting list, Lackey said, and the need is increasing. In Cabot, LCCA delivers 60 meals to seniors through Meals on Wheels and serves 60 more meals at the senior center each day.

Lackey said it costs about $5 per meal — easily $200,000 each year to service both Lonoke and Prairie counties — but Meals on Wheels is more than just a meal.

“It’s not just a nice thing to have,” Lackey said about Meals on Wheels. “It’s a necessity. … We get out there, and we’re trying to check on them, making sure they have heat right now and making sure it’s on. Some of our seniors don’t have family to check on them, so we become their surrogate family. You can’t put a value on that.”

Lackey has had the idea of a Santa run in the back of his mind for a while. He got the idea from a friend who saw a similar race in Europe.

“I just thought, wouldn’t that be fun to have a couple hundred people dressed up like Santa Claus running through a city here in Arkansas?” he said.

Darci Cruz, development director at LCCA, said that 80 people have signed up for the race. Cruz and Lackey are planning for about 100 runners to participate, and they hope the race grows over the next few years.

“I would love to have 500 people running this race,” Lackey said. “Five hundred people running up and down the streets in Santa and elf costumes acting crazy would be fun. That’s the big vision.”

The first 100 people to register for this year’s race will receive a Santa suit. The race will include a sleigh contest for people who want to decorate strollers, wagons or wheel chairs.

Seniors who spend time at the Cabot Senior Center have made medals for each race participant, and each participant will also receive a race shirt. The race will also include three stops with cookies and candy, and complimentary hot chocolate at the end of the race.

Saturday’s event will not just be a race, though. Cruz said there will be family fun for runners, their families and whoever else wants to come out to support the Lonoke County Council on Aging.

“We’re going to have a Santa’s Village in our awesome new events center, The Cabot Center. There are going to be shopping vendors and an opportunity to get photos taken with Santa,” Cruz said.

Santa’s Village will be available for everyone. Photos with Santa will be $5 each, and approximately 12 vendors have registered for the vendors market.

To sign up for the race, visit runsignup.com/santarun5k. Preregistration is $25 and registration the day of the race will be $30. The race will start at 9 a.m. and conclude at noon. For more information, visit the Cabot Center’s Facebook page or call (501) 843-2196.

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