Santa Paws 5k-9 event on Dec. 3 will allow runners to bring Fido and Spot

BY MIGUEL MOLINA, Alachua Chronicle contributor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new 5k race will allow runners to bring Fido and Spot.

The inaugural “Santa Paws 5k-9” event, organized by The Mills Group, will happen on Dec. 3 at 8 a.m. The race will start at Gainesville Health & Fitness Main Center and will benefit the Humane Society of North Central Florida. Runners will be allowed to run with their dogs.

Registration is $35 per person or $80 for a group of four and can be done the day of the event or at runsignup.com. Online registration is available until Dec. 3 at 7:59 a.m.

Jonathan Mills, the event organizer, says this is the first time the real estate group has put on a 5k involving dogs. Any type or size of dog can participate in this race. “So if they have a Chihuahua or a Great Pyrenees, we don’t really care as long as they don’t attack any other dogs,” Mills said.

The realty group decided to hold the race to raise money for the Humane Society of North Central Florida, with a goal of raising $5,000. Because all the members of TMG are passionate about dogs and adoption, “Santa Paws 5k-9” was created.

Mills says he expects around 100 people for the race, and each person will receive a Santa hat to wear as they run. “I thought that would be a fun way of making ourselves a little bit more visible,” Mills said. The 5k is a competitive and fun race. For competitors, the event will be “chip-timed,” in which each participant is tracked from the moment he or she starts to the moment he or she finishes. Ribbons will be given out to the top finishers.

Participants can pick up their race packet at the starting location from 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. A local fitness center will offer a complimentary warmup class for participants at 7:40 a.m., and the race will start at 8 a.m.

The route starts at Gainesville Health & Fitness Main Center, then goes east on Northwest Eighth Avenue to Northwest 43rd Street, north on Northwest 43rd Street to Northwest 23rd Avenue, west on Northwest 23rd Avenue to Northwest 55th Street, south on Northwest 55th Street to Northwest Eighth Avenue and then finally goes east on Northwest Eighth Avenue to arrive at the office of The Mills Group at Keller Williams Gainesville.

Mills says there will be an after-race party at the end of the finish line. Anyone can come to this event, even if they did not participate in the 5k. The party will have a variety of festivities and activities. For example, two grooming stations will be available. There will be music and a local acrylic artist at the event as well, along with a breakfast food truck. Santa Claus will be available to take pictures with participants and their dogs.

Margot DeConna, director of advancement for the Humane Society of North Central Florida, says the organization will be at the event and will have around five dogs up for adoption.

DeConna says the shelter serves around 3,000 animals a year. In order to take care of so many animals, the staff works 365 days a year.  Both the staff and the animals make this an expensive operation, so when The Mills Group reached out to put on this event, the organization accepted. DeConna says the shelter will take any opportunity to be out in the community raising funds and awareness.

All the funds raised at the 5k will go toward the care of the animals. For example, the money will be used to buy food, medication, and cleaning supplies for the animals. Neutering and vaccinating are other expenses that would be covered by the proceeds.

McCall Griggs, the transaction coordinator for The Mills Group, says although she will not be running in the race, she is planning to bring her dog River to the event.