Sisters from Omaha hit the pavement to help the Food Bank

40 Faces of 40 Years Amy Cherko and Vanessa Urbach

Photo: Sisters Vanessa Urbach (left) and Amy Cherko (right) pose for a photo at the Feast and Feathers race.

Running has always been a passion for sisters Amy Cherko and Vanessa Urbach. In 2012, they took that passion to the next level by creating Feast and Feathers—a trail run on Thanksgiving Day—where 100% of the proceeds go to Food Bank for the Heartland.

Amy said the idea started from the lack of trail runs in Omaha. However, they knew there was an opportunity to do more. “We thought, let’s raise money for the Food Bank because it just made sense. This is a day filled with excess, yet we have all these people who are struggling to put food on the table,” says Vanessa.

When asked why they chose the Food Bank their response was simple. “Food insecurity is something that feels invisible to so many because they can’t connect with it. But this event allows us to show people the breadth of services the Food Bank offers, how many programs they have, how big their reach is, and the amount of effort it takes. It’s been great to help the community make that connection to what the Food Bank does,” says Amy.

Vanessa agrees. “We do this because we can. Why would we not do something that helps others. It’s just a no-brainer.”

Since the race started twelve years ago, the duo has raised over $176,000 dollars and collected more than 15,000 pounds of food.  They’ve set a big goal for this year’s race. “We’re hopeful—after having two years off with the pandemic and construction issues at the race site—we can be over the $200,000 mark this year,” says Vanessa. 

While the race originally started from a desire to provide a healthy activity on Thanksgiving Day, it’s turned into a widespread desire to create a healthier Heartland. “We want this to be a legacy for the community. We want them to know how many dollars they’ve raised and how many meals they’ve provided. We’re giving people that empowerment to make a difference, when maybe they wouldn’t have done this on their own,” says Vanessa.

Both sisters agree it’s been nothing short of amazing to see how the community has come together. “People just continue to show up. They come with a truck load of food, or they do a food drive at their work, and it’s incredible. They’ll say, ‘It’s no big deal, we just did a food drive.’ But it is a big deal. We are overfilled with joy every year for how the community supports each other,” says Amy.

Regardless of the work they’ve done, Amy and Vanessa say it could not have been accomplished without the help of the Food Bank. “A lot of places get a donation and say, ‘great, thanks.’  But that hasn’t been the case with the Food Bank. Everyone there has helped us make this a great event. They go above and beyond, and that extra support means everything to us,” says Amy.

It’s clear that Vanessa and Amy are dedicated to this cause. So much so, they the want people to remember this race not because of its trails, but because of its mission. “For us it’s not about being the best or the biggest race, it’s about being the race that has the best interest of the community at heart,” says Vanessa.

Amy agrees. “We love hearing people say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the Food Bank Race.’ If they think that’s our name versus Feast & Feathers, we’ve accomplished our goal of helping people understand we’re the race that’s making a difference.”

If you want to be part of the difference, click here to learn more about Feast and Feathers and start your Thanksgiving tradition today!

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