In Loving Memory of Laurel
For 21 years, Laurel Hotelling was the main fixture at the event that bears her name. A small woman with a big smile and a winning personality, she was the focal point of many of the photographs taken during Laurel Run. And she was a constant presence at many of the activities surrounding the event.
This year, Laurel Run is going to be different. That’s because on November 13, 2017, Laurel passed away at the age of 54 after a lengthy illness. But while Laurel won’t be there in body, she’ll certainly be there in spirit. We hope you’ll join us at this year’s Laurel Memorial Run & Walk as we remember Laurel.
The 22nd annual Laurel Memorial Run & Walk will take place Friday, July 20, and Saturday, July 21. The event was started in 1997 when a retired teacher from Silver Creek, NY, named Wayne Hotelling – with his wife, Elaine, serving as his support crew – jogged and bicycled more than 400 miles across New York State. Wayne’s mission was to raise public awareness about the potential that exists within people who have disabilities. He named his cross-state trek “Laurel Run” in honor of Laurel, the oldest of the Hotellings’ four children.
Laurel was born with Down syndrome, a condition that leads to intellectual and physical impairments. Though she faced many challenges over the years, Laurel lived a happy and productive life that included having a job at The Resource Center for more than 30 years. Her full life would not have been possible had her parents followed the advice of a doctor who, shortly after Laurel was diagnosed with Down syndrome as an infant, suggested the Hotellings place Laurel in an institution and go on with their lives without her. Instead, Wayne and Elaine raised Laurel themselves, giving her the same opportunities enjoyed by her siblings and other children in the neighborhood, such as playing sports, joining Scouts and taking music lessons.
Laurel’s experience led to the message the Hotellings had in mind when they created Laurel Run: that people with disabilities can accomplish significant things, if they’re given the chance. Laurel Run became an annual celebration of the potential that exists within people who have special needs. And Laurel was the “face” of Laurel Run, embracing her role as the grand marshal of Laurel Run and becoming a celebrity in Western New York.
Though Laurel won’t be there, the event that bears her name will continue. The activities will begin at 8:00 Friday, July 20, with a free breakfast at The Resource Center’s Michael J. Raymond Center, 75 Jones & Gifford Avenue in Jamestown. At about 8:30, the first set of runners will head off on the 30-mile Laurel Run flag relay. That event will culminate at Washington Park in Dunkirk, where a victory celebration will take place from 12:00 to 2:00!
The following day in Silver Creek, the main Laurel Run events will take place. Check-in and registration begin at 7:00 in the Village Square downtown. Beginning at 8:30, there will be running and walking events for adults and children. You don’t have to be an experienced athlete to take part! You can walk at your own pace, and you’ll experience the magic on having dozens of people with disabilities cheer you on as you cross the finish line and receive your commemorative Laurel Memorial Run & Walk medal, which are made by people with disabilities at The Resource Center. This year’s medal features a photo of Laurel, and it is sure to become a treasured keepsake.
The highlight of the morning occurs at 10:15, when Laurel’s Legacy Lap takes place. Anyone with a disability is invited to take a lap around the track in downtown Silver Creek, and the determination they show in completing Laurel’s Legacy Lap will put a smile on your face, a tear in your eye or a lump in your throat. Laurel usually started off leading the procession for Laurel’s Lap, so this year’s event will be especially emotional without her.
If you won‘t be able to take part in the Laurel Run activities but are inspired to do something to show your support for the Hotellings and for people with disabilities,you can do a Virtual Laurel Run or Walk – basically, you can choose to do one of the walking or running events at your own convenience, wherever you want. Learn more at www.laurel-run.com.
Another way you can show your support is to make a donation to the 22nd annual Laurel Memorial Run & Walk. Money raised from the event goes to Filling the Gap, Inc., which works with The Resource Center to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Chautauqua County. Laurel Run proceeds are used to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. You can make a secure, online donation at www.laurel-run.com.
Each year, we have a contest among area high school students to design the logo that will be used on the Laurel Run posters and T-shirts. More often than not, the winning logo has incorporated a heart, and that was the case again this year. The 2018 logo, created by Kennedy Parks of Silver Creek, also features a silhouette of Laurel on her three-wheeled cycle, with angel’s wings and a halo.
The halo also looks like a hole, and without Laurel’s presence, this year there is a hole in the heart of Laurel Run. Organizers of the Laurel Memorial Run & Walk hope people will help fill that hole by taking part in this year’s event.