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Count Blessings, Count Miles |

Runners and walkers compete in the 5K and 10K course around Nevada Union High School during the annual Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot in 2018. While there was some rain at the 2018 event and some snow at the 2019 event, the 2022 event is expected to have sunny and comfortable temperatures.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez

The 17th annual Michael Edward Bratton II Turkey Trot continues what has become a holiday tradition for many in Nevada County and is held on Thanksgiving morning at Nevada Union High School’s Hooper Stadium.

The event, organized each year by a team that includes the family of the late Michael Bratton II, includes a 5K walk, 5K run and 10K run.

“It’s absolutely not too late to register,” said Michael Bratton, the main organizer of the Turkey Trot and father of Michael Bratton. “You can register online at or in the morning from.”

Registration begins Thursday at 7:30am, followed by a children’s race at 8:15am, with the main event starting at 8:30am. Bratton said about 1,400 people have already registered for the race, but only those who were able to register before November 15 will receive the event’s t-shirt.

Michael Bratton smiles as he comments on the PA system during the children’s race held in front of the Turkey Trot. Proceeds from the race go to depression and suicide prevention organizations.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez

The weather is expected to be mild, with temperatures reaching the high 60s throughout the day, a change in pace from some previous years when rain, wind and sometimes snow made for cooler conditions.

“A lot of people come this morning and register or just give a donation,” Bratton said. “We have bagels, fruit, hot chocolate.”

Bratton added that many local nonprofits and law enforcement agencies are helping on the day of the action.

“We have 150 volunteers, all from our friends and Michael’s friends and high school football teams and cheer teams. Sierra College, Grass Valley Police Department and CHP are wonderful.”

Nevada Union donates use of stadium; Event crew prepares and cleans up the area and in return donates to the school’s football team, cheer team, honor club and more. In addition, 50 percent of funds raised will go to Anew Day Counseling Services, NEO Youth Center, Bright Futures for Youth and a number of local youth support churches.

Carlyle Miller of Nevada City led the 2018 Turkey Trab in memory of Katy Martin who recently passed away. Others hold the Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot to honor lost loved ones.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez

However, at the heart of the race is the commemoration of Michael E. Bratton II and raising awareness of mental health.

“Michael took his own life at the age of 25,” Bratton said, “so we want to help people. There is hope and there are tools you can use to help you turn around. Physicians help, (as well as) lifestyle changes.”

The family’s goal was to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and offer help to people to traverse a cycle that was painful for many.

“In 2006, we were number one in the state of California for suicides per capita,” Bratton said. “Today we’re in our 20s. It’s a disease that can be treated. People should not and do not want to be ashamed of it. It’s all positive.”

Although the Turkey Trot has been going on for 17 years, Bratton said the event is still emotional for him and his family.

“It’s extremely emotional. I haven’t managed to keep my composure when I give my talk and I’m trying. I miss him and it shouldn’t have been. It was a shock because he was extremely popular and a mentor.”

A family rounds the corner of the final leg of the course during the Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot at Hooper Stadium during the 2018 run.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez

With all the frantic activity leading up to and on the day of Turkey Trot, the pressing question is: how do the Brattons celebrate Thanksgiving?

“We have about 25 people coming over for dinner,” Bratton replied. “Everybody help. Our family all come and we party and I try to take a nap. The emotional part (of the race) wears you out.

“It’s not just about showing support for mental health issues, it’s about meeting people I haven’t seen in the past year. It’s the best way to start a real Thanksgiving morning and see friends and think about what you’re grateful for. It’s a very generous community. I always say it’s like no other. Count our blessings.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the national Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day on 988.

To reach staff member Jennifer Nobles, email [email protected] or call 530-477-4232.

Runners rejoice as they near the finish line of the annual Thanksgiving morning Michael Bratton II Turkey Trot.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez

Jonathan Willis (from left), Savannah Morse, Jaime Willis and Rob Huston prepare to lead the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning at Nevada Union High School’s Hooper Stadium.
Photo: File photo by Elias Funez