Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the blessings in our lives and open our hearts to others, especially those in need.
On Nov. 22, Providence Day School will hold the third annual Gil Murdock Turkey Trot, a schoolwide food drive that honors the memory of the longtime teacher, coach and administrator.
Coach Murdock, who passed away unexpectedly in June 2006, had a distinguished career at Providence Day. He was the school's first physical education teacher, joining the faculty in 1971 a year after the school was founded. He built the athletic program and coached the majority of the school's sports teams, including basketball, baseball, tennis, football, cross country, track and golf.
Over the years, Coach Murdock's boys' golf teams won three North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state titles, and his girls' cross country team won two titles.
In 1997, the Providence Day baseball field was dedicated in Murdock's honor. But his legacy was much more than sports.
According to Jennifer Howe, director of communications, Murdock remains an important inspiration for the entire school.
"Not only was he a devoted coach, he was a beloved teacher, colleague, advisor, cheerleader and friend to all. He came to school every day looking forward to the opportunities to teach our students about respect, compassion and the importance of a healthy lifestyle."
Kristie Oglesby, chairwoman of the physical education department and event coordinator, helped brainstorm the initial idea with the other physical education teachers.
"Our first year (in 2008) the PE Department put on the entire thing," said Oglesby. "The second year the Parent's Association joined in to help. This year, everyone wants to be involved."
The Turkey Trot is an all day, drop-in type affair. Jim Cerbie, physical education teacher and baseball coach, said the student body, faculty, parents and alumni make time during the school day to go down to the football field to donate canned goods and then hit the track for some fun. The music is loud, the laps are crazy, the Charlotte community benefits and a beloved coach and friend's memory is kept alive.
This year they are expecting more than 1,700 people to participate.
In addition, Murdock's widow, Linda, who now teaches fifth grade at Charlotte Latin School, brings the entire fifth grade class over to Providence Day by bus to participate.
Canned goods are collected, boxed and then delivered to Loaves & Fishes and Catholic Services. Last year the Turkey Trot collected 2,000 pounds of food, and Cerbie expects to collect "considerably more this year."
"This is definitely an important yearly activity for our school," said Cerbie. "Especially with the economy the way it is, it's more important than ever. And I can't help but think that Gil is upstairs with a smile on his face."