Before indulging in turkey and all the fixings, one Solana Beach family will continue their 17-year-old tradition of doing their part to ensure those less fortunate are also fed.
Chuck Cuccaro, his wife Ana Maria Grace and their two daughters began participating in Father Joe's Villages Thanksgiving Day 5K run — which supports San Diego's homeless population — in 2001, when the race was founded.
The family has participated in every event since then, and will once again wake up before the sun and put on their walking shoes on Nov. 22 for a good cause.
"I just feel guilty about spending the whole day eating," Cuccaro said. "We used to have a tradition of going to see Ana Maria's mom but after she passed away, there was just nothing in the morning for us to do. Father Joe's came along just in time. Now we have a sense of purpose in the mornings to get up and go do this thing. It makes us feel good about giving back to the community."
In addition to annually participating in the run — which takes place on an approximately-three-mile-long course through Balboa Park in downtown San Diego — Cuccaro and Grace also regularly donate money to Father Joe's Villages to help the organization continue its mission of providing health, housing, education and career services for those living on the streets.
"Father Joe really is this person that wants to do the best for San Diego's homeless and understands what the families are going through," Cuccaro said. "He can look at it in a big picture of business. When money is donated to that organization, it's used for the right cause."
Deacon Jim Vargas of Father Joe's Villages said Cuccaro and Grace are among a group of families from across the county who have participated in the 5K every year.
Vargas said that kind of commitment inspires him and is part of the reason the nearly-70-year-old Father Joe's Villages is able to do so much for people who have so little. Every year, the organization provides close to one million meals for San Diego's homeless population.
"Chuck and his family just love starting their Thanksgiving morning being up bright and early and with us," he said. "They love knowing that on this day where we're giving gratitude, they get to show it by doing something good for those who are so vulnerable."
Vargas said he expects between 7,000 and 7,500 participants this year. The event, which is open to people of all ages and their dogs, will also include a Disney character meet-and-greet for children, a pancake breakfast and a beer garden.
Grace, who will only be able to walk one mile of the course this year due to an injured knee, noted the importance of the event on a day when people are expected to express their gratefulness. She said Father Joe's always prioritizes those less fortunate, no matter their beliefs.
"They are a Catholic organization but they don't make it religious," she said. "They're just all about helping people. To see that in action is great and it was good for our kids to see that. Sometimes you just want to feel good on a holiday, and we just love to be able to help in that way."
For more information about Father Joe's Villages 5K run and to sign up for the race, visit https://my.neighbor.org/event/thanksgiving-day-5k/.