“Together we can keep the distance, to go the distance.”
With that saying as their rallying slogan, organizers of the 24th annual Laurel Memorial Run/Walk are proceeding with this year’s events, though the pandemic is forcing changes in how things will be done.
The Laurel Memorial Run/Walk was created by Wayne and Elaine Hotelling of Silver Creek, NY, in honor of their oldest daughter, Laurel, who had Down syndrome. The Laurel Run/Walk celebrates people with developmental disabilities and serves as a reminder that people with disabilities can accomplish great things, if given the opportunity. The Laurel Run/Walk consists of a series of events that occur over two days the third weekend in July each year.
The biggest change to this year’s Laurel Memorial Run/Walk is that the traditional Silver Creek events will not take place, due to restrictions on large gatherings of people. Instead, people will have the ability to sign up to do a virtual 8-kilometer run or 5K walk on their own time.
While the 8K and 5K distances were chosen because those are the lengths of the run and walk held in Silver Creek each year, organizers said people can select any distance they want – some may wish to cover a longer distance, while others may be more comfortable covering a shorter route. And people aren’t limited to walking or running – they can choose to bicycle, swim, kayak, or engage in another activity.
People can conduct their personal run or walk any time until July 18, which is when the Silver Creek events would have been held.
For the Silver Creek events each year, medals were awarded to the top male and female age-group finishers in the 8K run and 5K walk. This year participants will complete their walks and runs over different courses and under different weather conditions, so organizers decided not to award age-group medals. But, people who pay the registration fee will still receive a commemorative medal made by people with developmental disabilities at The Resource Center.
People can register online at www.runsignup.com/Race/NY/SilverCreek/LaurelMemorialRunWalk. For $20, people will receive a commemorative medal and a 2020 Laurel Memorial Run/Walk T-shirt. Participants also are encouraged to create a personal fund-raising web page to collect donations from family members, friends and co-workers. For those who raise $50 or more, the registration fee will be waived.
Those who want to receive their medal and shirt by July 18 must register by 9:00 a.m. Monday, July 6. People will have the opportunity to pick up their shirt and medal, or they can pay $6 to have the items shipped.
Event organizers are hopeful that because people can take part in the Laurel Run/Walk from anywhere in the world, the event will realize an increase in participation this year. Toward that end, people who want to participate in a virtual run or walk but aren’t interested in receiving a shirt or medal can register for free.
While the Silver Creek events have transitioned to virtual events, other traditional Laurel Run/Walk activities will still take place this year. The Jamestown-to-Dunkirk relay run is planned for Friday, July 17, and organizers are seeking guidance from Chautauqua County officials on how to safely conduct that event. Volunteers from The Resource Center, area school districts and the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility typically run the various legs of the relay, and many of the usual participants have expressed interest in running this year.
In addition, several people have said they will run or bicycle the entire 30-mile relay route. Keith Gregoire of Williamsville has run the full distance (a feat dubbed “the Laurel-thon”) in each of the past seven years. His statement about participating in this year’s event likely will resonate with many people who are frustrated by the virus-caused cancellation of events.
“They’ve taken away my baseball games and track meets and fairs and festivals and concerts and races. They’re not taking my Laurel-thon,” Gregoire said.
Money raised through the Laurel Memorial Run/Walk goes to Filling the Gap, Inc., which works with The Resource Center to support people with disabilities in Western New York. Laurel Run/Walk proceeds are used to enhance employment and work training opportunities for people with disabilities. Laurel, who died in 2017 at the age of 54, had a job at The Resource Center for more than 30 years, and she was proud of her paycheck.
For more information about the Laurel Memorial Run/Walk, phone the Hotellings at (716) 934-3952 or Steve Waterson, TRC’s community relations director, at (716) 661-4735.