ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Thousands of runners took part in the annual Tony’s Turkey Trot 5K in Atlantic Beach on Thanksgiving morning.
The goal was to raise $200,000 for UF Health’s Trauma Center to help those with brain injuries.
The 9th Annual Tony’s Turkey Trot 5K has now become a Thanksgiving tradition and a pre-feast workout.
But who is Tony?
Tony Meduri is a retired police officer who moved to Florida from New Jersey in 2009 to enjoy retirement.
That was cut short just two years later in 2011 when a drunk driver slammed into Tony’s car while he was sitting at a red light. Tony suffered a traumatic brain injury.
That led to his daughter Anne-Marie Tucker having to become his permanent caretaker as Tony needed that care 24/7.
“He was immediately flighted to a hospital in a coma for a month, and then needed constant rehab,” Tucker said. “After that, it was very difficult to find places to take him.”
Tucker started the race as a way to honor her father and fight for others with brain injuries to get the help they need.
“He gave so much of his life that it was so important to me to be able to give him something back,” Tucker said.
Tony died in 2018 at 70 years old, seven years after his injury, but his name lives on.
“Even though it is a loss and it was so hard to deal with because of the consequences of his disability, I have been able to reach so many people, and now people make this Thanksgiving their annual family event,” Tucker said.
More than 3,500 people participated in this year’s 5K -- from a firefighter running wearing 50 pounds of gear to some running for the first time making it the largest turn-out of the event’s history.
First-time runner James Price said he understands doing this is for something bigger than himself.
“With sports and just people in my life I know who have brain injuries, it is rough,” Price said. “It is tough, and you never know the timeline. You never know what is going on. You never know when you’re going to get better. Just to come out here and support them in terms of, ‘Hey, we do not have the answers, but we just want to come alongside you and just put our arms around you and say, “hey we are walking through this with you.”'”