OFF TO THE RACES A total of 2,919 registered runners stand at the starting line at 8am on Thanksgiving Day, for Healdsburg’s annual ‘Live Like Drew’ 5k Turkey Trot. (Photo by Michael Lucid)

Thanksgiving Day gets off to an early start in Healdsburg, and Nov. 23, 2023, was no different. Almost  3,000 participants registered for the fundraising Turkey Trot benefit, “plus lots of kids in strollers and dogs,” according to Susanne Esquivel. “The youngest Trotter was two weeks old and the oldest was 90 years old.”

The run around town is only 5k, about three miles, so “winning” is clearly not the point. Still, there were first-place finishers. The first across the finish line, at The Healdsburg Running Company where participants began their jog, was Eric Noel of Berkeley with a time of 15:13 (he was last year’s winner as well). The first woman to finish was his wife, Mary Noel, with a time of 17:23. 

FAMILY FINISH Eric Noel of Berkeley, standing at right on the podium at the end of the race, was top finisher. His wife, Mary Noel, came in first in the women’s race. (Photo by Michael Lucid)

The race, presented by the Rotary Club of Healdsburg Sunrise with the help of founding partner the Healdsburg Running Company and the logistical support of City of Healdsburg Community Services, raises funds for the Drew Esquivel Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“Drew Scholars are selected based on their scholastic and athletic records, community involvement, personal character traits, attitude, goals and achievements,” said Esquivel, mother of Healdsburg youth after whom the “Live Like Drew” race is named.

A 2013 graduate of Healdsburg High School, he died in Brooklyn three years later, the victim of a drunk driver. He was 21 at the time. Another Rotary fundraiser, the Drew Esquivel Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament, is held annually in September. 

“After seven years, $120,000 from the endowment has been given in the form of single-year scholarships to 45 Drew Scholars,” said his mother. “With generous community support aspiring, high-achieving Healdsburg graduates are recognized and encouraged, now and into the future.”

All together, 1,051 registrants, 35% of the total, claimed Healdsburg residence. Another 1,159 runners, 40%, listed other Sonoma County addresses. And 719, or 25% of the 2,919 registered participants, came from outside Sonoma County.

While the Rotary scholarship fund is the primary beneficiary, Farm to Fight Hunger also received support from the event this year. The Healdsburg nonprofit grows sustainably farmed vegetables and produces pasture-raised eggs that are donated to those in need of healthy food in Sonoma County. One of the event supporters, BloodRoot Wines, donated $75 to Farm to Fight Hunger from each case sale generated by the event.

Said Susanne Esquivel, “The event was possible because of over 80 community volunteers including the dedicated members of the Rotary Club of Healdsburg Sunrise, many awesome students in Healdsburg High School Interact Club, and Healdsburg Running Company’s amazing running community.”

A full list of supporters, donors and sponsors, and past recipients of the scholarships, can be found at

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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