Thousands of jolly runners join together for Santa Hustle 2012 in Chicago

It may take a little explaining when your child sees thousands of Santas running along the lakefront this holiday season.


Even if you’re not into running, the sight of all those Kris Kringles is worth the trip Dec. 1 to the museum campus, where the 4th Annual Santa Hustle begins.

“I think it’s going to be pretty fun to watch 7,000 Santas run on the lakefront,” says Amy Key, president of Variety Children’s Charity, this year’s race beneficiary. “We’ll have music going, so it will be a fun atmosphere.”

Runners get a red shirt, white beard and Santa hat when they register, but many take it even further and deck themselves out in full Santa costumes. Holiday music is piped throughout the course, which starts on Museum Campus Drive, heads south on the trails past McCormick Place, and then loops back to finish on Waldron.

A 100-yard dash for kids 12 and under begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by the main 5K race at 9 a.m. In keeping with the holiday spirit, water stations also feature candy and cookies, with candy canes passed out at the finish line. This year, a new wheelchair division and kids’ wheelchair dash have been added to the race.

A party with activities for families will take place after the race.

If you’re not a runner, but are looking to do some good this holiday season, race organizers are looking for more than 200 volunteers, and families are encouraged to help out. “We want people of all ages. We’ve seen kids be very successful at handing out water,” Key says. “Parents can definitely come out with kids and consider this one of their giving opportunities.”

Money raised from the event will go to Variety’s program to provide mobility equipment for children whose insurance won’t cover a specific item. That includes things such as wheelchairs, sports equipment and adapted bikes, Key says.

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