By Kelly Burch
---- — Twenty-six years ago Bill Pennington founded the Feaster Five Thanksgiving road race, setting off one of most treasured events on Merrimack Valley calendars. Now, the dedicated runner has founded another event, Run For The Troops 5k, to raise money for injured veterans.
The run will take place on April 6, 2014.
“The Feaster Five was successful because of the day,” Pennington said. “There’s nothing special about April 6, but we are successful because we have the best cause in the world: the people who fight for our freedom every day.”
Four years ago, Pennington ran the Boston Marathon to benefit Homes for Our Troops, a national organization that builds homes for disabled veterans.
“Coming from a military family, I understand what these people go through,” said Pennington, whose mother and father were both in the services, his mom with the Marines and his dad with the Navy.
He began to organize the Run for The Troops, benefiting from the help of race director Dave McGillivray, who had become a friend. McGillivray, who helped Pennington organize the first Feaster Five, has since taken over that race, but is best known as the race director for the Boston Marathon.
“I give people a tremendous amount of credit for creating something from nothing,” McGillivray said. “You can come up with unique idea, but it takes courage and guts kick it out the door and mobilize support. Bill has done that with the Run for the Troops. Just like with the Feaster Five, he had the vision, he created it and he was responsible for the initial inertia.”
Plus, McGillivray said that Pennington is very convincing.
“Anytime Bill asks for help, no is not an acceptable answer,” he said. “It’s just where and when do you need me.”
In just four years, Pennington’s new endeavor has raised over $100,000 for Homes for Our Troops.
“It’s growing and growing, just like the Feaster did,” he said.
Each year the proceeds from the race benefit one soldier. Last year, the event raised money for Marine Corporal Kevin Dubois, from Rhode Island. Dubois lost both of his legs after stepping on an IED in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011.
“Having a specially adapted house will help my everyday challenges,” Dubois said at the time. “It will improve my life overall by giving me more independence and giving me a better quality of life.”
At the 2013 race, the three soldiers that the event had benefited previously attended to cheer on the runners.
“You can see directly where money is going and the impact on that it is having on a life. It’s a phenomenal thing,” Pennington said. “It means so much, not only to the soldiers, but to the people who have loved ones serving. It shows the troops that America hasn’t forgotten.”