When it comes to volunteering, the Heppners make it a family affair.

Merrittonian Charlotte Heppner will once again welcome her family from Abbotsford as they gear up for the Merritt Country Run.

Every year since its inception, Charlotte and her husband Wayne see his side of the family come to Merritt to help with running the event.

Wayne’s parents, brother and three sisters, along with various nieces and nephews attend the run, she said.

Generally 12 to 15 family members make their way here from the Lower Mainland.

“Some run and the ones that aren’t running volunteer. Everyone does something,” she said with a laugh.

The tradition began the event’s inaugural year. Charlotte was the volunteer co-ordinator and was in need of helping hands, so she contacted her relatives.

“They all just fluttered up here and pitched in just like they always do,” Charlotte said.

“They make traditions out of things,” she said. “As soon as we finished that first year they were like, ‘Well, this will just be a tradition, we’ll do this every year,’” she said with another chuckle.

“And then since then, even though I’m not the volunteer co-ordinator anymore, it’s just kind of been a tradition. They come up and help,” Charlotte said.

The volunteers will help out with running water stations, setting up chairs and tables, directing runners and doing cleanup.

“My mother-in-law, we usually have her on the ground handing out medals,” Charlotte said.

Her nieces and nephews even bring some of their friends with them to help out.

The last couple of years, two of Wayne’s brothers-in-law have brought their motorcycles so they can do motorcycle control, Charlotte said.

For the most part, everyone helps out with whatever they’re asked to do.

“Then we wrap it up with a barbecue at our house and then they head back to Abbotsford,” Charlotte said.

What began out of necessity a few years ago became a family tradition for the Heppners.

“Wayne’s family is really close and they have – oh my goodness – they get together for almost every birthday and they do everything together, and they all live in Abbotsford except for us,” Charlotte said.

Charlotte and Wayne, who are originally from Abbotsford, moved from Kimberley to Merritt about six years ago.

Charlotte said when she moved here she decided to be a volunteer for the Merritt Country Run because she was looking to meet people.

“I was a runner in Kimberley and I thought that’d be a way to make friends,” she said.

The fifth annual Merritt Country Run takes place June 8.