Category "Laurel Memorial Run"

“Perseverance” marks Laurel Memorial Run & Walk

July 16, 2020

“Perseverance” has always been a word associated with the Laurel Memorial Run and Walk. This year is no exception.

Nearly 40 years ago, perseverance is what planted in Wayne Hotelling’s mind the idea of having Laurel Run. While driving through Canada on a family vacation in the early 1980s, Wayne noticed a man with a prosthetic leg, running along the highway. The Hotellings soon came upon the man’s support team and stopped to chat. They learned the runner was Terry Fox, and that after losing a leg to cancer he had set a goal of running across Canada in a “Marathon of Hope” to raise money for cancer research.

Terry’s determination and perseverance inspired Wayne, and he decided that one day he would do something similar to Terry’s Marathon of Hope.” Wayne’s goal would be to raise awareness about people with developmental disabilities in honor of his oldest daughter, Laurel, who had Down syndrome.

In 1997, Wayne set out to jog over 400 miles across New York State in an endeavor he called “Laurel Run.” After covering 100 miles in the first five days, Wayne sustained a leg injury that made it too painful to continue running. Undaunted, he gave his leg a little time to heal and then picked up where he had left off, trading his running shoes for a borrowed bicycle. When Wayne came to steep inclines, he got off the bike and had his wife, Elaine, walk up the hills to officially log the miles. They ended up finishing on time, with Wayne and a group of supporters jogging the last few miles.

A leg injury couldn’t stop Wayne from completing Laurel Run. He persevered because Laurel Run wasn’t about him — it was about Laurel, her friends at The Resource Center, and all of the people with disabilities, their families and caregivers who cheered for him as he crossed the state.

Perseverance has remained a part of the Laurel Run/Walk over the years as it has evolved into an annual, two-day event:

  • It is demonstrated by the many runners who have conquered our challenging 8-kilometer course, dubbed “The Toughest Race You’ll Love to Run” because of the hills, heat and humidity.
  • It is exemplified by the hardy souls who run or bike from Jamestown to Dunkirk in an event we call “The Laurel-thon.”
  • It is personified by the dozens of people with disabilities who turn out each year in Silver Creek to tackle “Laurel’s Legacy Lap,” an event created just for them.

The Hotellings have persevered in their personal lives as well. Some 30 years ago, Laurel acquired a serious infection and was hospitalized for 100 days. But she pulled

through and went on to enjoy a full, rich life.

In her final year, Laurel again spent a lot of time in hospitals in Buffalo and Erie, PA, with her parents visiting her every day. And Wayne, Elaine and their entire family persevered after the sad day in November 2017 when Laurel died at the age of 54.

Having persevered through so much over the years, Wayne and Elaine weren’t about to let the coronavirus cancel the 24th annual Laurel Memorial Run and Walk. Out of safety concerns, we will not hold our usual Silver Creek events. Instead, we’re asking people to sign up to complete a Laurel Run or Walk on their own. Learn more and register at www.laurel-run.com.

But not everything has changed! We’re still going to conduct our Jamestown-to-Dunkirk relay run Friday, July 17. We can’t hold our usual kickoff and victory celebrations, but by conducting the relay we can maintain a sense of normalcy this year.

The Laurel Run/Walk experienced a major change in 2018, which was our first event after Laurel passed away. This year will be different, too, but we hope many area residents will tap into Laurel’s persevering spirit and sign up to do a virtual run or walk. And we’re optimistic that by offering the virtual options, we’ll also attract people from faraway locations who want to be part of the Laurel Run/Walk tradition.

Pictured, Wayne, Elaine and Laurel pose outside Dunkirk City Hall during the victory celebration after the 2006 flag relay. Laurel is holding a proclamation declaring it “Laurel Run Day” in the City. She enjoyed her role as grand marshal of the Laurel Run/Walk.

 

Laurel Memorial Run/Walk going virtual this year

June 12, 2020

“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.