Silicon Valley Turkey Trot: Eleven Years Later

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November 18  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino
race dir of the year

Carl Guardino named 2015 MarathonFoto/Road Race Management Race Director of the Year.

Here’s food for thought . . . Most of us don’t give a second thought to where our next meal will come from.

But for a quarter million people who live in Silicon Valley, affording food, or shelter, or health care, is a daily concern.

To help those in need, and build community and begin our holidays in a fun and healthy way – 11 years ago my wife Leslee and I did something many entrepreneurs do in Silicon Valley . . . we took a risk: We founded the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, which I direct.

First, we found our form of venture capital. Thanks to Joe Pon and Applied Materials, we secured a title sponsor who shared our vision.

Second, we created advisors, with an executive steering committee of sponsors and partners who believed in the mission.

Third, we marketed to potential customers – race participants – who would carve out time on Thanksgiving morning before carving their turkey, to participate in our 5K, 10K or Kids Fun Run.

Four, we looked for successful charities serving our community that would benefit from the proceeds of the Turkey Trot – charities that help with health, hope and a home.

That first year was scary. A week before the race we had only a couple of hundred registrations. Then, on race morning, we were deluged with hundreds of walk-on registrations, and ended up with 1,900 paid participants, raising $88,000 for local charities helping neighbors in need.

Since 2012 – year 9 of our Turkey Trot – we have been the largest timed Turkey Trot in the world. This year, we are stretching ourselves to attract 28,000 paid participants, so that we can donate $1 million to help even more in need in our Valley.

You and your family can help us achieve that goal. All you need to do is sign up, and show up. Please start with step one today, sign up at

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San Jose Works: Both for Kids and Our Community

September 2  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . San Jose Works – By building resumes rather than rap sheets.

Under the creative leadership of Mayor Sam Liccardo and his Council colleagues, the innovative program known as “San Jose Works” has just completed its first summer with measurable success.

How encouraging to see results rather than rhetoric:

In all, 247 young people – all from at-risk neighborhoods in which crime and gangs are prevalent – participated in San Jose Works this summer.

  • Ninety-five percent of the kids who began the program completed the program.
  • Jobs included public sector posts like libraries and community centers.
  • San Jose Works also provided private sector jobs in retail and back office administrative work, as supportive employers like Lowe’s and Target stepped forward.

So why has the San Jose Works program succeeded where similar programs often fail? Follow-up.

With San Jose Works, at-risk teens aren’t just provided with a job, they are provided with job skills, coaching, mentoring and supportive services:

  • Through a Citibank grant, the teens were provided with financial literacy courses.
  • Coaches helped teens prep for their jobs, guided them through the entire summer, and checked in with employers to make sure each kid was meeting expectations.
  • Through non-profits and faith-based groups, services like tattoo removal and counseling were provided for kids who needed a leg-up, rather than to be left-out.

Yes, “San Jose Works” because San Jose leaders – from Mayor Liccardo and the Council on down – cared enough to design a program that offered more than a job. They provided a path to success which will last much longer than a summer’s worth of employment.


Raise Yourself Up Without Tearing Others Down

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May 27  |  Community, Federal Issues, Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought … You can raise yourself up without tearing others down.

On the same day, I recently found in my mailbox two separate letters. One from a prominent Democrat member of Congress and one from a top-tier Republican presidential candidate.

Along with the expected appeal for money, both envelopes contained rather lengthy letters that seemed to spend as much ink tearing down the other political party as it invested in praising their own.

From the Republican presidential candidate, I read such red meat as the following:

“I know what the liberal Democrats are capable of, because I understand how desperately they crave power.”

And “Content with the status quo and willing to accept mediocrity, the Liberal Democrats are running our country into the ground.”

From the congressional Democrat, I read such lines as:

“We face a radical Republican Party with … a willingness to do or say whatever it takes to advance their far right-wing agenda and obstruct any and all of our progress.”

Oh my.

Instead of ripping into the purported evils of the other party, why not focus on the solutions your own party has to offer?

I seem to recall our Founders writing eloquently about the “United” States of America, not the divided and divisive parties that would burn bridges down rather than build them.

A note to leaders of both our major political parties: Give the American people credit. We are smarter than you might think. We crave solutions to our nation’s problems, not personal attacks and political ambition.

Candidates, please – run on your ideals and ideas. Lift us up, without tearing others down.


Building Community by Building Bridges

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March 17  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . We can build community by building bridges.

It was at Independence High School in the heart of East San Jose that new San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo held his inaugural State of the City address.

Whether it was his comments about building all four BART Stations in San Jose, bringing all sides to the bargaining table to refine Measure B’s pension reforms, seeking summer jobs for at-risk youth or engaging caring adults in our “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds” tutoring initiative, the Mayor’s messages were spot-on. We are best when we build – our Valley, our City, our communities and our neighbors.

No issue looms larger for San Jose than public safety. Even though the objective FBI data clearly show crime is down, we all know we are best served with more police officers patrolling our streets. That means thoughtful adjustments to pension reform. The most important step the Mayor and city unions can take is the step toward each other, at the negotiating table.

Yet reducing crime isn’t all about police protection, it is also, as the Mayor eloquently stated, about “replacing a rap sheet with a resume.” That’s why his summer jobs for at-risk youth program is an imperative, and why our “1,000 Hearts” tutoring initiative for K-8 students is essential.

We have a Mayor who is moving San Jose in a positive and productive direction. Engage with him. Great cities are made from the ground up – by good people taking the time to get involved. To build bridges that build a community.

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Storm of the Century

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February 4  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Heart_Soles5KHere’s food for thought . . . “Storm of the century!”

How many times have we heard well-meaning weather reports with that headline?

In drought-ridden California, any time a single raindrop might fall, we are warned of a major storm on the horizon.

Well, don’t let the latest weather report dampen your enthusiasm to join us – rain or shine – this Saturday morning at Hellyer Park in San Jose for the Second Annual Lam Research “Heart & Soles 5K” run or walk for healthy school lunches.

With your help, we will raise enough to achieve our goal – funding 64 more salad bars in local public schools, serving nearly 42,000 students. Combined with the results from last year’s effort, this brings our two-year total to 120 salad bars serving 78,000 school kids throughout Silicon Valley.

Yes, there may be a drop or two of rain – but that is only a drop in the bucket compared to what we will accomplish together for local schools. Come. Join us. Register at

If you need to . . . bring an umbrella.

See you Saturday morning at Hellyer Park.

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A Cause for Claus

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December 3  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

CG_SL_SWHere’s food for thought . . . “A cause for Claus.” Santa Claus, that is.

Four years ago, Governor Brown and the CA Legislature dissolved redevelopment agencies. Right or wrong, the loss of that local funding source placed at peril amazing community initiatives like the popular “Christmas in the Park” celebration and “Downtown Ice” in San Jose, which runs from Thanksgiving past New Year every year. Christmas in the Park is cherished by residents throughout our region, with more than 500,000 people enjoying this wonderful tradition with their families.

Enter Mayor Chuck Reed and downtown city Councilman Sam Liccardo, now the Mayor-Elect. Seeking help from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, we secured support from business leaders to save Christmas in the Park and Downtown Ice. To establish a longer-term funding source, we launched the TiVo “Santa Run Silicon Valley” three years ago, a family-friendly 5K run or walk through downtown San Jose ending at Christmas in the Park.

Now picture this . . . 5,000 people, all dressed like Santa Claus, running and walking to fund Christmas in the Park. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face, as you cross a “snow machine” finish line greeted by milk and cookies; the reward of Santas everywhere as they come down the chimney.

Join us – let’s strengthen Christmas in the Park and Downtown Ice, build community and benefit the needy – all with three miles of festive smiles. Register today at For a small additional fee we’ll include a 5-piece Santa suit.

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On the Move at Burnett

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November 26  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Mentors Matter.

This morning, at Burnett Middle School in downtown San Jose, Mayor-Elect Sam Liccardo joined two world-class runners to meet with 300 students.

London 2012 Olympian Diego Estrada, who grew up in Salinas, CA, along with Texan running sensation Tia Martinez, are in town for our 10th Annual Applied Materials “Silicon Valley Turkey Trot,” but both of these poised professionals took time the day before their race to share their passion with students in the heart of San Jose.

Burnett Middle School students do not hail from wealthy homes. In fact, 8 of every 10 students qualify for the federal government’s free or reduced lunch program. The school has a rich history of serving poor students. I know, because my father – a first generation American born to a working class family of ten from Sicily – was also a student at Burnett Middle School in the 1940’s.

Yet what impressed me most about the morning was the enthusiasm of the kids. Eager and energized, they listened intently to Mayor-Elect Sam Liccardo and two world-class athletes, then interacted directly with questions of their own. But the best was saved for last, when Mayor-Elect Sam Liccardo, Diego Estrada and Tia Martinez led 300 students for a run around the school yard. These kids were “on the move with Mayor-Elect Sam,” and what a wonderful way to start their day.

Whether running professionally or running for office, these 300 kids directly experienced what can be achieved through hard-work, determination and passion. Yes, role models matter. But what mattered most was this simple lesson – “running” is great, but “serving” is better.

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No Excuse Not to Trot

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November 12  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

TT2013Here’s food for thought . . . There’s no excuse not to trot.

Turkey Trot, that is.

This Thanksgiving morning, November 27, we will host our 10th Annual Applied Materials “Silicon Valley Turkey Trot,” with an ambitious goal to give away $1 million to families in need throughout our Valley.

You and your family can help us achieve this audacious goal.

We often hear people say they are out-of-town on Thanksgiving, or that they are responsible for preparing the meal that morning. Fair enough. But this year there is no excuse not to participate. You can join us in spirit and still support our efforts to help needy families. When you register at, we will save your race shirt and bib for a friend or family member to pick up or to claim after the race.

Inspired by U.S. Army Lieutenant Josh Splinter, who – for the past two years – has led a platoon in Afghanistan to participate in our Turkey Trot while thousands of miles away from home, we have “Remote Runners” from all around the world. We even have cyclists and swimmers who have signed up to support the Turkey Trot, while participating in their sports of choice on Thanksgiving Day.

So join us. Take a moment to register at Whether you run, bike, swim or simply sit on the couch with your remote control in hand, support those in need this year by signing up and joining us in spirit at our 10th Annual Turkey Trot. No excuses.

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We Are What We Eat

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March 26  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s Food for Thought . . . We are what we eat.

Healthy bodies are fueled by healthy food; but there’s more – healthy food also produces healthier students with healthier minds, fueled to learn.

That’s why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation has teamed up with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Lam Research CEO Martin Anstice to support our “Salad Bars for Schools” initiative, funded through our Lam Research “Heart & Soles 5K” run.

Our three-year goal is to provide salad bars in 105 Silicon Valley schools; with our year-one “stretch goal” to fund 30 salad bars.

Well, with the help of our 5K community sponsors – the San Jose Silicon Valley Changer of Commerce, South Bay Labor Council and the Santa Clara County Office of Education, we blew that goal away, funding all 60 schools that applied for salad bars.

Does it matter? Consider the facts:

  • Currently, 3 of every 4 kids don’t eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.
  • Salad bars significantly increase the percent of low-income kids that eat fruits and veggies.
  • Salad bars improve the diets of kids by consuming fewer calories, less fat and less cholesterol.

All kids deserve healthy school meals. Our Foundation’s goal is to place a salad bar in every interested school in Silicon Valley. If you have the appetite to help, watch for news soon about next year’s “Heart & Soles 5K” and join us.

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100 Percent

February 19  |  Community, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Whether you are part of the “1 percent,” or the “99 percent,” why don’t we all focus on the “100 percent?”

For the past 17 years, it has been my pleasure to serve as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – a group of 385 progressive, proactive, problem-solving CEOs who focus on solutions to some of our region, state and nation’s most pressing problems. Perhaps it is simply the culture of our remarkable region, but we focus on issues that impact all of us – 100 percent:

  • Do homeless issues in San Jose and San Francisco, and every city in between, impact tech companies’ bottom-line? Not really. But from our vantage point, turning a blind eye to people in need is morally wrong; which is why working to help abate homelessness is a key goal in our work plan.
  • Does traffic congestion and a lack of transportation options effect our employers’ ability to recruit and retain top talent? Only tangentially, as other resilient regions like New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo have equally challenging traffic conditions. Yet we have led numerous successful efforts to provide traffic solutions; to bring BART to Silicon Valley, improve and electrify Caltrain, build Highways 85 and 237, and numerous other specific solutions. Yet, traffic is back, and so are our efforts for a new iteration of traffic solutions – to serve all of us – which will be our focus for the next three years.

Here’s a thought. If through hard-work, risk and an element of luck, you are part of the “1 percent,” never forget those who aren’t. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to help others.

If you are part of the hard-working “99 percent” of American citizens fighting each day to hold a job, pay for housing and feed your family, let’s count the blessings we do have, and continue to serve others with the time and treasure we can afford.

In Silicon Valley, let’s never allow sharp elbows to replace joined hands. Together – 100 percent – we can make positive change.

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