20th Laurel Run a success!
Despite the absence of Laurel from some of the festivities, the 20th annual Laurel Run was a success, and organizers are already looking ahead to next year.
Laurel Run was created in 1997 by Wayne and Elaine Hotelling of Silver Creek. The event is named in honor of their oldest daughter. Laurel Run is a celebration of the achievements of individuals with disabilities.
This year’s Laurel Run got under way at about dawn Friday, July 15, when two hardy souls – Keith Gregoire and Rose Carr – set off from The Resource Center’s Michael J. Raymond Center in Jamestown in their quest to complete the Laurel-thon – jogging 30 miles to Dunkirk. This marked the fourth straight year that people have completed the endurance run, and Keith has done it all four years.
The 2016 Laurel Run formally began a couple of hours after Rose and Keith began their trip. More than 100 people gathered inside the Michael J. Raymond Center for the traditional kickoff event. Following breakfast (which again this year was coordinated by staff and service recipients in TRC’s Alternatives Day Program) came remarks from the Hotellings as well as from elected officials and their representatives, including Jacqueline Phelps, representing Congressman Tom Reed; Lisa Vanstrom, representing State Senator Cathy Young; Assemblyman Andy Goodell; and County Executive Vince Horrigan.
Once the speeches were over, people gathered in front of the Raymond Center for photos, then proceeded along the sidewalk as a group. Upon reaching Eighth Street, representatives from The Resource Center and Maple Grove High School started off on the first leg of the annual Laurel Run flag relay, accompanied by a police escort as the runners made their way along the streets of Jamestown.
In all, 10 schools participated in the flag relay, which follows the same route as the Laurel-thon. As has become tradition, employees of the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility led the relay runners for the last few miles, jogging in cadence along Central Avenue accompanied by a police escort. Once the last set of runners arrived at Washington Park, they joined staff and people with disabilities from The Resource Center to enjoy refreshments at a victory celebration hosted by the City of Dunkirk. Keith and Rose arrived before the last set of relay runners, and the pair looked no worse for the wear after completing their 30-mile trek.
During the party, Laurel posed for photos and received a thrill when Mayor Willie Rosas gave her a proclamation declaring July 15-16 as Laurel Run Weekend in Dunkirk.
The following day, the action shifted to the Hotellings’ hometown of Silver Creek. Volunteers began arriving before 6:00 a.m. to get set up in the Village Square. People planning to participate in the 5-kilometer walk or the 8K running race started registering at about 7:00.
A new event took place this year with the raising of an American flag. The flag had flown a combat mission over Iraq in 2009, providing that had flown at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. On hand to present the colors were members of Hanover American Legion Post 148. Shortly afterwards came one of the traditions of Laurel Run – the singing of the National Anthem by John Graham, who receives supports from The Resource Center. John always gives a rousing vocal performance, and this year was no exception.
As Wayne Hotelling and staff from Western New York Finish Line Services gathered everyone at the starting line for the beginning of the 5K walking race and the 1K fun walk, it became apparent that something was amiss. Conspicuous by her absence was Laurel herself, who usually is front and center for the start of the walks. Wayne explained that she had experienced a medical issue during the night and had gone to the hospital. While Laurel ended up being OK, Laurel Run just wasn’t the same without her.
The first person to cross the finish line in the 8K run was Raymond Graf, who toured the grueling course in 28 minutes 25 seconds. Ray is a Laurel Run veteran who also oversees the participation of Silver Creek students in the relay run. Ray previously has finished in the top three at Laurel Run, and as he has done in the past Ray donated his prize money ($100) back to Laurel Run.
The first female to finish the 8K was Kim Vona. Kim, who has now won the women’s race four times, finished in 30:49, missing the course record by three seconds.
In the 5K walk, the winners were Will Carmen in 35:19 and Stacie Bauer in 36:42.
Runners and walkers were spurred to the finish line by an enthusiastic line of vocal supporters, including dozens of staff and service recipients from People Inc. Upon exiting the finish line area, walkers and runners were presented with a commemorative ceramic medal that was handed to them by TRC service recipients. The commemorative medals (made each year by individuals in TRC’s Alternatives Day Program) are prized by Laurel Run recipients.
Once everyone had crossed the finish line, it was time for the children’s fun runs. The young ones set out in two groups (children age 4 and under, and kids age 5 to 7). Some were able to make it around the track on their own, while others needed support from a parent or sibling.
After the children’s runs came the signature event of Laurel Run – Laurel’s Lap. A record number of individuals with disabilities took part. While most Laurel’s Lap participants were able to complete the lap on their own, some people using wheelchairs or walkers received support from others. As people crossed the finish line, they were given a commemorative medal.
Next it was time for the awards ceremony for the 8K run and the 5K walk. A different style of ceramic medal (also made by individuals at The Resource Center) was given to the first three male and female finishers in each age group. Individuals with disabilities each year volunteer to place the medals around the necks of the age-group winners. Laurel usually is one of the people doing this, and in her absence her sister Diane stepped in to handle this duty.
Throughout the morning there were activities in the Village Square to keep folks occupied. Runners and walkers enjoyed sandwiches from Brunner’s Bayside Catering, and they could take advantage of a free massage from Becky Hornburg or Michelle Maggio. There also were Chinese and Italian auctions, raffle tickets and the opportunity to buy a chance on winning a quilt made out of Laurel Run shirts from past years. (The quilt was made by individuals in TRC’s Day Programs on Harris Avenue and Hazeltine Avenue, with support from staff.)
The Laurel Run planning committee thanks everyone who helped make this year’s Laurel Run a success. We’re especially grateful to those businesses that conducted fund-raisers: the Observe r newspaper, which for the 10th straight year published a special edition that focused on Laurel Run, with volunteers then selling the papers; United Refining Company, which for the 14th year in a row sold paper Laurel Run sneakers at its Kwik Fill/Red Apple Food Mart locations; and Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery, which again this year sold “Laurel’s Favorite” ice cream.
In addition to the businesses mentioned above, we extend our appreciation to all of the businesses that helped to sponsor Laurel Run. Our larger sponsors included Brown & Brown Insurance, the Winifred Crawford Dibert Foundation, Independent Health Self-Funded Services, Premier Consulting Associates, Saxton Kocur and Associates, and Support Enterprises.
We want to thank the Village of Silver Creek for again doing a phenomenal job of hosting Laurel Run and providing manpower to make sure that everyone remained safe and healthy on race day. We also want to applaud the City of Dunkirk for hosting the Relay Run victory celebration again this year.
We thank the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department, the New York State Police, and the police departments of Dunkirk, Fredonia, Jamestown, and the Town of Ellicott for helping to keep our runners and walkers safe.
We thank everyone who supported Laurel Run by participating in one of the events, volunteering, donating money or goods, buying shirts, paper sneakers or raffle tickets, or helping to spread the word about Laurel Run. And a special shout-out to Niles Dening and Jane Young for their photography services, and to Nate Manning of Southern Tier Sound for providing the sound system.
We hope to see everyone July 14 and 15, 2017, for the 21st annual Laurel Run!