By GSN news staff

It started a decade ago when Gilbert was maybe half its current size and a booming downtown was little more than a planner’s dream.

But next weekend, the Fulton Homes 12Ks of Christmas run will not only celebrate its status as one of the top 10 family runs for the whole family, according to Runners Magazine. It also will be continuing a tradition that has helped rescue thousands of stray animals.

The 10th annual Fulton Homes 12Ks of Christmas and Santa’s Pet Village will run from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Freestone District Park, 1045 E. Juniper Road, Gilbert. Admission is free.

The runs/walks – open to individuals, couples and families – start at 10 a.m.  They include a 12k run, 6k run/walk and a 1.2k “Santa Sled Run” for families.

Host to one of the largest pet adoption events of the season, this unique family festival celebrates health, fitness and the joy of Christmas, while supporting local animal rescue groups.

Over 20 pet rescue groups will be in Santa’s Pet Village to educate people about the animals they help and to raise money by selling fun Christmas gift items for people and their pets.

The event is among one of the more unique runs, since Christmas carolers and performers are stationed along the run/walk route, and wrapped gifts are under the tree as prizes for the participants showing the most Christmas spirit and the best Christmas-themed running outfits – on people and their pets.

Runners World not only lists the Fulton Homes 12Ks of Christmas as one of the top 10 family races but also lists it as one of the top 10 running events for dog owners to bring their pets.

Participants in the run-walk are encouraged to wear Santa suits, dress their kids as elves and decorate wagons and strollers. All participants in the 12k and 6k receive Christmas “stockings” – high quality running socks – and a 6” “finishers medal” will be given to everyone who completes the 12k and 6k runs. There also are awards for first-, second- and third-place finishers in all age groups.

A portion of the proceeds support participating animal rescues. Over the past nine years, the Fulton Homes 12k’s of Christmas has raised over $90,000 to help the animals and has helped almost 2,000 pets find homes.

For more information or to sign up in advance: 12krun.com or 480-609 3978. Participants also can register at the event.