Hundreds of runners could be joining Santa Claus on his annual parade route in Toronto this year, as part of a new fundraising initiative for the annual event.
The Santa Claus Parade is set to kick off at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 17, from its starting point at Christie Pits.
But a half-hour before that, up to 2,000 runners will be able to begin making their way along a five-kilometre course starting from Bathurst Street.
The parade has dubbed it the "Holly Jolly Fun Run," and it will cost runners $100 each to participate.
The Santa Claus Parade website says that all proceeds will go to the parade.
The parade’s website says that it is does not receive any public funding to run the annual event.
Jeff Weiss, the parade’s director of marketing and communications, said that the parade has long relied on corporate sponsorships and some private donations.
But the funds that this new initiative will generate can help keep the parade going into the future, he said.
Those who sign up for the new fun run will also get a toque, mittens and a charitable tax receipt.
The parade's website says runners must be at least 12 years old to take part.
Adults will need to accompany all runners younger than 16 years of age and the parade says that dogs and strollers will not be allowed.
Any interested runners can register for the fun run on the Santa Claus Parade website.
Weiss said the decision to limit the fun run to 2,000 participants this year was made to ensure it will be a manageable event.
But if all goes well, Weiss said the hope is the run will grow in the years to come.
Peter McCluskey, a runner and retired CBC journalist, pitched the idea of the fun run to the parade late last year.
There are other cities — such as Niagara Falls, Ont. — that have incorporated a fun run into their annual Santa Claus parades.
But McCluskey said that he saw the possibility for a fun run when walking down University Avenue last year after the parade had ended.
He realized that with the streets being blocked off, a run could easily be organized to follow the same course.
When parade organizers heard about the idea, Weiss said they quickly thought: "That is a good idea."
They thanked McCluskey for his suggestion and offered him a free spot in the forthcoming fun run.
"The organizers contacted me in September and offered me a free place in the run as well as VIP seats to the parade. What I was really hoping for was a free place in the run and a 15-minute head start," McCluskey said in an email.