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PNC YMCA Turkey Trot takes guilt off holiday menu

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 11:38 p.m.
Dressed as a turkey, Sophia Czarnecki, 15, of Greensburg, takes off from the start of the 21st annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot on November 22, 2012 in downtown Greenburg. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Runners pass by the Westmoreland County Courthouse at the start of the 21st annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot on November 22, 2012 in downtown Greenburg. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Thousands of participants in the 22nd annual PNC YMCA Turkey Trot take off for the 5K portion of the race Thursday morning November 22, 2012 on the North Shore. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Thousands participated in the 22nd annual PNC YMCA Turkey Trot Thursday morning November 22, 2012 on the North Shore. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Less than a month after Jeremy and Diana Alberter were dealt a devastating loss, they chose Thanksgiving morning to focus on others.

Wearing T-shirts that read “Team Elise” to honor their 2-year-old daughter who died suddenly on Oct. 30, they joined about 7,000 other walkers, joggers and runners at the 22nd annual PNC YMCA Turkey Trot to raise money for YMCA programs. Jeremy Alberter, 28, of Bethel Park said eight family and friends joined him and his wife on Thursday morning.

“She's giving me that little extra kick to keep me going,” Jeremy Alberter said of his late daughter.

For many, it was a family affair and time to enjoy the day together for the event, which took participants through the North Shore and Downtown for either a 5-mile or 5K race.

Sisters Teri Pokol, 46, of Murrysville and Jennifer Trozzo, 42, of Monroeville — along with her daughter, Laura Trozzo, 14 — sported Thanksgiving-colored tutus and T-shirts with turkey faces on them. The sisters recently ran the Washington marathon together.

Claude Barr, 60, of Washington ran with his granddaughter Maddie Johnson, 12, and son-in-law Dan Johnson, 36, both of Hilliard, Ohio. “It keeps you in shape. It keeps you feeling good,” Barr said, though Maddie chimed in, saying, “It's tiring.”

Some said they were making room for the traditional meal that was to come later. Several experts said a Thanksgiving dinner can contain anywhere from 1,800 to 4,000 calories, depending on the menu and portions.

“I wouldn't feel right eating all that stuffing and cranberry sauce if it wasn't for this,” said Nicky Sanders, 22, of Charlotte, who was visiting his parents in Steubenville, Ohio.

The event has been growing in popularity over the past few years, said Paul McComb, executive director of the PNC YMCA. In 2009, there were between 1,800 and 2,000 participants who raised between $30,000 and $36,000. This year, McComb said, the race was expected to net just over $100,000 for the first time.

McComb said the trot costs about $90,000 to stage, including paying for police and supplies.

The proceeds will go to the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, including after school and fitness programs.

Participants also pitched in non-perishable food items to support the Hazelwood YMCA Food Bank, which the YMCA supports.

McComb said he lacked exact numbers on the amount of food collected, but “hands down, it was our best year.”

The Hazelwood food bank served 300 people on Tuesday, McComb said.

“This race has never been about or will be about profit,” he said. “The proceeds ensure that YMCA programs are available to everybody. We have a strong volunteer base, and as much of a headache this race is sometimes, I'd do it 10 times a year.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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