Santa Cause 5K women's winner

Ginny Archie of Greenfield, Tennessee nears the finish line of the inaugural Santa Cause 5K Toy Trot last year in Murray. Archie was the top female finisher in the race, with a time of 24:28.95. The event was a fundraiser for the annual Towing for Toys Christmas drive led by Max's 641 Towing and Service of Murray.

MURRAY — It may seem quite early to be talking about a Christmas toy drive.

However, for Towing for Toys coordinator Monty McCuiston, it is all about momentum. And with more of the Murray-Calloway County community’s youth being served by this mission with each passing year, the need to keep the momentum of achieving record numbers is paramount.

That is why Saturday is so important. The Santa Cause 5K Toy Trot is the first Towing for Toys event of 2021, marking the first chance — even though Christmas is still about six months away — to build steam.

“It’s very important for us because it’s not only our first event (this year), it’s coming at a time where, hopefully, we’re getting back into the swing of things,” McCuiston said of how, in 2020, some Towing for Toys events could not happen because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re getting back to normal, so hopefully everyone will be ready to help us.”

In spite of last year’s disruptions related to the pandemic, Towing for Toys, which is led by Max’s 641 Towing and Service of Murray, set new records for funds raised and gifts accumulated. When all was said and done in 2020, more than $56,000 had been raised, some $20,000 more than the previous record, set in 2019.

Part of that record came courtesy of not one, but two road races Towing for Toys hosted. Saturday’s Santa Cause event will be run for the second time after making its debut last year. It raised about $3,500 last year and attracted 42 runners for a race that happened in July.

McCuiston said Monday that Saturday’s race is trailing participation numbers in comparison to last year, with 25 runners having registered. However, he is noticing an interesting trend that may signal hope that this number will rise significantly by the time runners approach the starting line Saturday morning at Murray High School.

“What’s surprising to me is that, so far, 80% of our entries have been from outside our area. Only 20% so far, have been actually from Murray,” he said. “Now, we’re behind from last year, but I’m hoping we can get several more to sign up before Saturday, and I’m thinking we’ll get quite a few from here.

“I would love to get at least up to last year’s numbers.”

The race starts at 7:30 a.m. on Johnson Boulevard in the area of the Murray High campus’ tennis and soccer facilities. Registration is available by going online at www.runsignup.com/Race/Events/KY/Murray/SantaCause5kToyTrot.

Cost to enter is $39, plus a $3.26 signup fee. That price will increase to $44 after 11:59 p.m. Thursday. McCuiston said registration will also be available Saturday, starting at about 6:45 a.m. He said seven or eight of last year’s runners registered on the day of the race.

There is also a virtual 5K for runners who cannot be in Murray that day, with the same registration costs applying.

This will be the first of two 5Ks this year. In December, Towing for Toys will host its second annual The Grinch’s Stink, Stank, Stunk 5K, also at Murray High. That race accounted for another $3,000 to $3,500 for Towing for Toys.

However, McCuiston is becoming especially excited about the prospects for another Towing for Toys production, also being tried for the second year. The 18 Holes ’Til Christmas Golf Tournament is set for Aug.28 at Miller Memorial Golf Course outside of Murray.

That event generated about $10,000 last year. Still a few months out, though, McCuiston said numbers are already very strong.

“We’ve already made $10,000 in sponsorships and registrations,” he said. “Last year, we asked our teams what they would think about having a Saturday tournament and the response was, collectively, ‘Yeah! That would be great.’ So we went ahead and scheduled it and we already have 10 teams (of four players each). It’s really been overwhelming how people have responded and we’re feeling that this could really grow as we get closer to that day.”

McCuiston said there is room for the golf tournament to accept 144 players, or 36 teams.