In early October, while many Cobb County residents were focused on Friday night football or what to wear for Halloween, Joy “Gigi” Cantrell’s sights were already set on Thanksgiving. Her holiday plans always included her family’s participation in the MUST Ministries Gobble Jog, the charity’s annual Thanksgiving morning run/walk fundraiser and a holiday tradition. In the same email message that Gigi sends to her grown children asking for volunteers to bring a side dish, she also includes registration information for the Gobble Jog.
Getting up before dawn on Thanksgiving morning to get the turkey in the oven, Gigi arrives at the historic Marietta Square by 8 a.m., leaving the bird in the capable hands of husband Myron, affectionately known as “Poppy.” She meets daughters Julie Austin, a unit secretary in the emergency room at WellStar Kennestone Hospital, Stephanie Shamblin, a fifth grade teacher at A. L. Burruss Elementary School, and daughter-in-law, Tracie Cantrell, a marketing executive in Marietta. There will also be at least five or six grandchildren in tow.
Julie is the serious runner in the family. She has competed in several half marathons and runs the 10K course that consists of two laps from the Marietta Square to Kennestone Hospital and back again. Gigi, along with daughter Stephanie and the grandchildren, will meet other extended family members for the 5K walk/run. Stephanie says that the 5K may be less strenuous, but, “it’s still a good workout and we don’t feel guilty about our big meal later on.” In addition to the exercise, Stephanie also enjoys the Gobble Jog’s family-friendly atmosphere. “It’s a good, spirited way to start the day and it’s all for a good cause,” referring to the funds raised by the event for MUST.
Last year, their annual participation took on a poignant twist when Julie saw a runner collapse just a few steps in front of her at the finish line. Immediately, she began to pray for guidance on how to help, and watched as emergency personnel rushed in to perform CPR. That event was a catalyst for Julie, who took the incident as a message for her own life. Later that day, after much talk around the family’s dining room table, Julie made the decision to pursue a second bachelor’s degree, this time in nursing. She is currently completing the science prerequisites and will apply for a spot in Kennesaw State University’s fast-track nursing degree program. “That day, I realized my true calling,” she said. “When I become a nurse, I intend to care for people in my own community and also care for those I’ll be meeting on mission trips to other countries.”
For more information about the 10th annual Gobble Jog benefitting MUST, go to http://www.gobblejog.org/.