The Reindeer Run 8K focuses on the goal of bullying awareness and what kids can do to help stop bullying.

The fifth annual event embarks Dec. 20 at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

Do Savannah had a chance to talk with Kesha Gibson-Carter, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, about the Reindeer Run's history and how people can get involved with the anti-bullying campaign.

When the race first started four years ago, it was to raise funds to support the Rape Crisis Center and its mission. Over time, the focus and theme of the race evolved to support prevention and education, especially against bullying.

"This shift made sense, and was consistent with the story of Rudolph, as he was bullied by the other reindeer," Gibson-Carter said.

Of course, Rudoph himself will be on hand to welcome everyone to join in all the reindeer games this weekend. Look for the red noses provided by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"Our race is a pit stop for the reindeer. They stop in Savannah each year to gear up for the big night," she said.

All age groups are welcome to run. Ages 9 and younger are invited to run in the kids' run at 8:45 a.m. Ages 10 to adults are welcome to run the 8K, which begins at 9 a.m.

"The Best Holiday Cookie" contest is another one of those activities that made sense, and was consistent with the theme of the event. Choosing the contest winner is up to celebrity judges Stratton Leopold, Jesse Blanco of "Eat It and Like It" and chef Orchid Paulmeier.

"This, of course was Santa's idea - you know he loves his cookies!" Gibson-Carter said.

In addition to the run, there will be several post-race activities, including a costume contest and a recognition of the person who raised the most funds.

With such a serious message, The Rape Crisis Center wants people to know how they can help tackle the challenge of being bullied.

"The reindeer race helps us highlight our mission, which is to avert sexual violence and provide prevention education to youth and young adults," Gibson-Carter said.

As adults, bullying is an issue many think only affects children. That is not always the case in our own lives. There are a lot of instances of workplace bullying or domestic bullying that go on daily. The Rape Crisis Center wants people to have the tools to help prevent and stop violence such as bullying.

"First, stand up for yourself, since bullies are less inclined to persist. Second, tell someone. Say something. Third, don't walk away, be a bystander who will intervene. Fourth, you can ignore the person and now allow the issue to escalate," Gibson-Carter said.

She also has advice for kids who are either being bullied or who may be the bully.

"Kids can step up and step in when someone is being bullied," she said. "They can befriend the person being bullied to show support. They can show support to the person privately and openly."

But what if someone is a bully and they do not realize it? What can they do?

Gibson-Carter had a simple and effective answer: "Stop bullying behavior. Address and work on deep-seated issues that are causing the bullying behavior. Find other ways to get noticed or accepted.

"If a child is a bully, they should speak to their parents, teacher or school counselor. Adults are bullies, too. They should take the same steps toward resisting bullying behavior."

Often people who tease others may not realize how the teasing is actually bullying when carried too far.

"People should always be cognizant of the effects their actions have on someone's feelings. Bullying is a deliberate act to hurt or make someone feel less than, inadequate and or unaccepted, is often related to an imbalance of power and control and happens on a continuous basis," she said.

"Teasing is often a playful act of roasting as a way of fitting in or relating your friends. Everyone involved generally have an equal share in the act. Teasing does not highlight someone's difference, is not meant to cause harm, and is done by someone who is a friend who will stop if asked."

The act of bullying may even lead to escalated violence later in life.

"Several studies have examined the overlap between bullying and sexual violence. The CDC recognizes that bullying perpetration and homophobic harassment are significant predictors of sexual harassment perpetration over time," Gibson-Carter said. "While these findings are preliminary, they do suggest that homophobic teasing may be a component of bullying that may increase the potential for sexual harassment later. In other words, a bully perpetrator who also used homophobic teasing may later turn to sexual harassment."

The center offers ways to get involved and learn more about the prevention of bullying.

"Bully prevention is a huge component of activity provided to our community by the Rape Crisis Center," Gibson-Carter said. "At the race, we will announce and launch our Bully & Cyber-bully Hotline. With support from United Way, CDC/Rape Prevention & Education and the Episcopal Church Women of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, this service will be provided to all middle schools in Chatham County to promote healthy relationships in school environments."