Laurel Run: Why I participate
Laurel Hotelling poses with members of the Maple Grove cross-country team before the start of last year’s flag relay.
By Mark Stevens
Over the course of 20 years, thousands of runners and walkers have stepped forward and participated in the Laurel Run in one way or another. Some take part in portions of the 30-mile relay along Route 60 from Jamestown to Dunkirk, while others hit the streets of Silver Creek. Each person has their own reason for participating. Here are just a few.
WHY I PARTICIPATE
BRUCE MAIN, Jamestown, N.Y. — “I believe I have participated every year in one form or another. The first year, Marla Gressley, a couple of Jamestown High School kids and I ran the first leg.
“I originally became involved because I wanted to quit smoking and looked to running to replace the habit. I credit the Laurel Run for providing me with the motivation to kick the habit. Since my first involvement I found it was an opportunity to enlighten as well as educate others about the mission of The Resource Center and those with developmental disabilities.
“Several years ago, when relay runners from Jamestown to Dunkirk began carrying flags, one student running next to me said, `God, it’s hard running with a flag.’ Without thinking I responded, `Well, think of the flags our individuals (with disabilities) carry every day.’ She looked at me and replied, `I never thought of it that way.’ She kept carrying the flag ‘til the handoff. I think that was also a defining moment for me. I may have initially been involved for myself, but have learned it’s more than me. “
BOB GEFFERT, Sheridan, N.Y. – “I’ve been walking the Laurel Lap for about six years. I think what The Resource Center and the Laurel Run does is important. It shows that just because someone’s disabled doesn’t mean they can’t do the same things as everyone else. Just because I’m disabled doesn’t make me inferior to anyone else.”
COACH MARK FITZGERALD and the FREDONIA HIGH SCHOOL CROSS COUNTRY TEAM – “We’ve been involved, probably since the relay started. I thought it would be nice to have the student athletes meet some of the Resource Center clients and see some of the struggles they deal with each day.”
COACHES RAY GRAF and AMY SEIDERS and the SILVER CREEK TRACK TEAM,
Billy Seiders, Jon McDaneld, Ellie Decker, Cole Golembieski, Gracie Mullen – “We’ve been taking part for more than 10 years. We support Mr. Hotelling and Silver Creek track legacy, as well as Laurel and other people with developmental disabilities.”
COACH STEPHEN MATTESON and the MAPLE GROVE CROSS-COUNTRY TEAM – “One of the things I tell the kids is when they find hardships in running or life, they have to figure out what their `why’ is. Why do they push through the hardships? Why do they set their goals? Many times our Maple Grove athletes mention that running can be hard at times, but they are blessed to have the opportunities that they have.
“I have only been able to help out with the relay this last year, and I felt everyone that was there attending to support the cause or to run, all brought energy and enthusiasm to show the love for running and each other. The relay shows how all the schools in Chautauqua County can come together and work for a great cause. One thing I love about endurance sports is that no matter what team or school you run for, everyone cheers for each other to do the best they can.
“I enjoy the relay the atmosphere of the 8K Laurel Run race held the next day in Silver Creek, and the homemade awards are special.
Grace Auer (Maple Grove) – “I think we like running in it because we want to bring joy to those who can’t.”
Kristin Kelemen (Maple Grove) – “Also we’ve met some of the people that benefit from the relay, and seeing their smiling faces along the way makes us all the more willing to run!”
Bryn Mozzi (Maple Grove) – “It shows us how blessed we are to be able to do something we love.”