Rain fails to put a damper on Laurel Run Relay
The 2012 Laurel Run kicked off in grand style Friday, July 20, with the annual Jamestown-to-Dunkirk flag relay.
About 8:00 that morning, people began gathering inside The Resource Center’s Michael J. Raymond Center to enjoy an informal breakfast that again this year was organized by individuals with disabilities and their support staff from TRC’s “Alternatives “ Day Habilitation Program. People talked excitedly about the relay run and the main events scheduled for the following day in Silver Creek. Adrianna Fish, the Southwestern High School student who designed this year’s Laurel Run logo, was on hand, and she had the opportunity to meet event namesake Laurel Hotelling and her parents, Wayne and Elaine.
At about 8:45, opening ceremonies began, with remarks given by Assemblyman Andy Goodell; Lisa Vanstrom, am Ellicott Town Council member who also is a representative for Senator Cathy Young; Paul Cesana, TRC’s Execultive Director; Wayne and Elaine Hotelling; and two TRC service recipients, Surma Ayuso and Michael Wilcox, who expressed their pride for those involved in Laurel Run and urged people to go outside the building to begin the relay.
Once outside, Laurel climbed onto the seat of her three-wheeled cycle, and she and a contingent of people made their way up the sidewalk to Eighth Street, where employees of TRC’s Pharmacy and Staff Training Center cheered them on. Senator Young joined the procession as it made its way up the sidewalk. Once traffic had subsided at the corner of Eighth and Jones & Gifford, TRC employees Bruce Main and Marla Gressley (accompanied by Marla’s dog, Benny, and some runners from Maple Grove Central School) began the first leg of the relay, with a Jamestown Police escort. They carried flags announcing the fact that Premier Consulting Associates was the sponsor of this year’s flag relay.
The Laurel Run flags made their way north on Route 60, with runners from Sherman, Southwestern, Frewsburg, Maple Grove, Jamestown, Panama, Westfield, and Ripley taking turns carrying the flags. A Town of Ellicott Police cruiser took over from Jamestown, and then a Chautauqua County Sheriff’s cruiser took over from Ellicott. All of the cruisers had their lights flashing to alert passing motorists to the runners’ presence. At portions along the route, individuals with disabilities and their staff from The Resource Center were positioned along the side of the highway, waving homemade signs of encouragement and cheering on the runners.
Students and faculty members from Silver Creek took over the flags from Ripley and proceeded through Laona into Fredonia, where a police escort took them to a large group of runners from Fredonia High School. That combined group then was met in downtown Fredonia by about a dozen employees from the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Facility, located in Brocton. Each year, the Lakeview folks make a flag bearing that year’s Laurel Run logo, and they then lead the rest of the runners to the finish line while jogging in cadence. This year, the Lakeview contingent allowed about a dozen of the student runners to take turns carrying the Laurel Run flag as the group made its way along Central Avenue into Dunkirk, where it was joined by a Dunkirk Police cruiser for the relay’s final stretch.
Meanwhile, a group of about 100 people huddled under a tent in Washington Park, excitedly awaiting the arrival of the relay. While the light rain and cool temperatures were a slight annoyance to the crowd, the runners enjoyed the break from the oppressive heat that had gripped the area earlier in the week.
As word passed through the crowd that the relay was approaching, people came out from under the tent to greet the runners. A long, loud round of applause arose as the runners came into view and make their way to the park. Once there, the Lakeview contingent presented this year’s Laurel Run flag to the Hotellings. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed pizza and ice cream provided by Mayor Anthony Dolce and the City of Dunkirk, which each year graciously hosts a victory celebration in Washington Park.
We extend a huge “THANKS” to everyone who participated in the Laurel Run flag relay. Wayne and Elaine enjoy having students participate in the relay in hopes that by doing do, they are instilling in the youths an appreciation and respect for individuals with disabilities that will last a lifetime.