It was a tradition that was unmatched in my childhood. Early Thanksgiving morning, I would wake up with excitement in the air. Thanksgiving means great food, time with the family and a special occasion to feel gratitude. But for a young boy, it also meant football, and more specifically, the Turkey Bowl!

Friends and families would gather, traditionally at the park in Gearhart on the corner of Pacific Way and Marion Ave, usually in some combination of cold, wind and rain for some touch football.

Typically, the game would remain a friendly mixture of old and young, talented and not-so-talented and a chance for me to get to play football either with or against my older brothers, something that didn’t happen too frequently.

With the change in season upon us and Thanksgiving and other seasonal holidays approaching, I’ve had cause for some reflection on a more recently established Thanksgiving tradition.

Some number of years ago, a grassroots movement in Seaside began humbly: a traditional Thanksgiving meal, served to anyone in need, free of charge and without judgment. That early concept developed and grew, and grew, and grew.

For the last two years and continuing this Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 23, various community enterprises have teamed up to offer this community Thanksgiving and the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District has been fortunate to host the meal at the Bob Chisholm Community Center.

Each year, volunteers from the staff of Helping Hands Reentry as well as Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, The Seaside Chamber of Commerce, local Boy Scout troops and others, spearhead the efforts in serving a delicious and traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Safeway generously donates and prepares the turkey and mashed potatoes and many other wonderful people and organizations donate time, resources and talents.

While impact may be hard to measure, the dinner serves more people each Thanksgiving and last year provided a meal to 300 people in our community, including many that may find themselves on the fringes of our society: the widowed, the financially stricken and the homeless.

It’s a great opportunity for me and my family, a new tradition, to participate in this dinner. I feel grateful to connect with friends and associates from this tight-knit community and to lend a tiny offering of support and time.

You can even start your morning with the Turkey Trot, a 5k run/walk that takes place in downtown Seaside, through the Sunset Empire Park & Recreation District.

I encourage each of us, particularly during this season, to seek opportunities to serve others and to strive for empathy and compassion.

New traditions are sometimes hard to adjust to. I miss those Thanksgiving mornings of my childhood: catching a pass, sharing a laugh and coming home cold, wet and perhaps smelly. But this new tradition isn’t bad either.

If you’d like more information about contributing to the community Thanksgiving, please contact me at 503-738-3311 or sarchibald@sunsetempire.com.

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