Fall break events in Urbana-Champaign that help community, others


Champaign-Urbana citizens gather in the Urbana High School’s cafeteria during the 2013 Annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

By Susan Szuch

For many students, Thanksgiving Break means taking a bus, driving or flying home to see family and friends. 

However, that doesn’t mean there is any shortage of things to do for those who stay at the University. From simply enjoying the company of others on Thanksgiving Day to volunteering, these upcoming events not only benefit students, but the community as well. 

Urbana High School’s 43rd Annual Thanksgiving Dinner

The Urbana High School student senate office is bustling with high school students taking inventory of canned goods, making decorations and creating flyers. Even with a week to go before their big night, the atmosphere is lively and productive.

Urbana High School is having its annual Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 27 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria, located at 1002 S. Race St. in Urbana.

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Planning the event is a yearlong affair, said Maddie Headtke, student senate president and senior in high school. The students have to start raising money at the start of their school year, looking at previous years to see how much money they could potentially need and how many people could attend.

“There’s a lot in the beginning to do, with the letters and watching things come together, and then there’s a lull in the middle, which is kind of what we’re in right now,” Headtke said. “Now we’re like, ‘Okay, we can’t make the food ahead of time or start decorating,’ and then it’s going to be two days before, and it’s going to be crazy.” 

Despite the extensive planning and resources needed for the event, being able to give people a place to socialize is rewarding to Mia Radanavong, student senate vice president and junior in high school.

“Usually people will come if they don’t have any family here, like with foreign exchange students, and they will spread the word again by mouth or texting or the Internet, and it benefits them because then they know that they’re not alone,” Radanavong said. “It’s heartwarming to connect with people that you don’t know, and just getting to know that person and who they are and what they’re like.” 


Turkey Trot 

The Urbana Park District is hosting the 47th annual Turkey Trot on Nov. 27 at Lake House in Crystal Lake Park in Urbana. Check in is at 8 a.m. and the race starts at 9 a.m.

The event is a mile-long run and walk to help the Urbana Park District offer free and reduced-price summer camp for children next year. Free hot chocolate is provided as well as a prize raffle after the race.

Daily Bread Soup Kitchen 

Volunteers in the lobby of New Covenent’s Fellowship greet guests, while others prepare salads and desserts. All contribute to helping Daily Bread Soup Kitchen serve about 250 hungry guests a day, said Karen Kane, Daily Bread board member, and each leaves with a sack lunch for later in the day.

This year, the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen will be closed on Thanksgiving, but will be open on Nov. 26 with a meal including turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

In the past, Daily Bread has been open on Thanksgiving, but in recent years Kane has found that the number of guests who attended Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners have dwindled.

“Some years we were open on Thanksgiving Day and a lot of people like to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day — which is wonderful — but the holidays tend to be times when our guests are more likely to be with their families than they are otherwise. So, we really were finding we didn’t have very many guests on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Kane said.

The completely volunteer-run organization has often relied partially on students’ help.

“We traditionally have about 50 or so (college students volunteering each semester),” Kane said. “They might only come once, or they might come more often than that, but we have a lot of university — primarily U of I and some Parkland students — that come and volunteer with us, which we appreciate.”

Junior League’s Festival of Trees 

The 19th Annual Festival of Trees will be taking place on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $5 per adult.

Students have the opportunity to win one of the trees, wreaths or gift baskets that are raffled or auctioned-off. Prizes this year include a signed guitar, a tree with signed country CDs and a RAMS ticket package. 

Local vendors make up a gift gallery where students can purchase holiday gifts.

The event benefits Junior League’s community projects, including Junior League Bright Starts, where they provide students with skills to succeed in kindergarten, and League Locker, a warehouse that provides teachers with supplies they need.

“We are excited to provide this opportunity for the community to come celebrate the start of the festive holiday season, while learning all about the projects Junior League supports,” said event chairperson Laura Gerhold in a press release.

Susan can be reached at [email protected].