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Each year, hundreds of people come together to show support for those with special needs. The event is called the Laurel Memorial Run/Walk, and the 27th annual installment will take place July 14 and 15.
The event was created in 1997 by Silver Creek residents Wayne and Elaine Hotelling in honor of their oldest daughter, Laurel, who had Down syndrome. Though she faced many challenges, Laurel lived a full and productive life thanks to the support she received from her family, her community and The Resource Center. Laurel passed away in 2017 at the age of 54.
The Laurel Memorial Run/Walk is a two-day celebration of the potential that exists within people who have disabilities. The event seeks to raise public awareness about people with disabilities while providing an opportunity for people with disabling conditions, and those without, to come together at a fun, family-friendly event.
Activities begin Friday, July 14, with the traditional flag relay. A kickoff ceremony will be held at 8:00 a.m. in The Resource Center’s facility at 75 Jones & Gifford Avenue in Jamestown. At about 8:30, the first volunteer runners will set off on the initial leg of the relay run to Dunkirk. Representatives from The Resource Center and area school districts, as well as the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Brocton, will run the various legs of the relay while carrying Laurel Run flags. Patrol units from area law enforcement agencies accompany the runners to ensure their safety on the busy roads.
Shortly after the first relay runners set out, Laurel’s Legacy Lap will take place up the street at McCrea Point Park. For that event, people with disabilities take a lap around the park. People without disabilities are encouraged to cheer the walkers as they make their way to the finish. Laurel’s Lap will continue throughout the morning, so people can come and complete the lap at their own pace.
The relay run ends in the parking lot of The Resource Center’s facility at 186 Lake Shore Drive West in Dunkirk. As it has done for many years, the city of Dunkirk will host a celebration from 12:30 to 2:00 to mark the relay’s conclusion. The community is invited to attend the victory celebration and to cheer on the last set of relay runners, who are expected to arrive between 1:00 and 1:15.
For the 11th straight year, several people are planning to jog and/or bike the entire 31-mile relay route. That event is called the Laurel-thon.
Anyone wishing to run a portion of the flag relay, or to take on the Laurel-thon, is invited to do so. Phone 716-661-4735 for information.
Friday’s events are a warm-up for the main Laurel Run/Walk activities, which take place the following day in Silver Creek. Check-in and registration begin at 7:00 a.m. in the village square. At 8:30, a 5-kilometer run/walk and a 1-kilometer fun walk will begin, followed at 9:00 by an 8-kilometer running race.
For the 5k run/walk and the 8k run, medals will be given to the top three male and female finishers in each age group. Commemorative medals will be given to everyone who crosses the finish line. The age-group medals and the commemorative medals were made by people with disabilities and their support staff at The Resource Center.
Cash awards ($100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third) will be given to the top male and female finishers in the 8k run.
Besides the individual competition, there will be a team challenge. Awards will be given to the three fastest teams in both the 5k and 8k events, with each team’s time determined by the combined times of its first four finishers. Teams must register their team members by Thursday, July 12, to be eligible to win the team awards.
The registration fees for the 8k, the 5k and the 1k are $20 for children 17 and younger, and $25 for people 18 and older. Those entry fees increase $5 on July 13. All paid registrants will receive a 2023 Laurel Memorial Run/Walk T-shirt and the commemorative medal, and will be entitled to enjoy refreshments after completing their event. People can earn free entry into Laurel Run by collecting $50 or more in pledges. Click here to register and set up a personal find-raising web page.
Saturday’s events also will include fun runs for children age 7 and younger starting at 10:00, followed by a Laurel’s Legacy Lap for anyone with a disability. The cost to enter the fun runs is $5 per child or a total of $10 for families with two or more children. There is no fee to enter Laurel’s Lap.
Throughout the morning, there will be activities in the village square including music and prize drawings.
Those who are unable to attend the Silver Creek events but want to do something to show support for people with disabilities can sign up to do a virtual run or walk. People choosing that option can register for free, or they can pay the standard registration fee if they want to receive a shirt and commemorative medal.
Money raised through the Laurel Run/Walk goes to Filling the Gap, Inc., which works with The Resource Center to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families in Chautauqua County. Event proceeds are directed to The Resource Center Laurel Run Fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and are used to promote disability awareness initiatives and to enhance employment and work training opportunities for people with disabilities.
This past year, the Laurel Run Fund provided startup money for the Project SEARCH initiative, in which The Resource Center collaborated with UPMC Chautauqua to provide a nine-month internship for three young adults with developmental disabilities. The trio received training in a variety of departments at the hospital, and now they hope to use those skills to find jobs in a hospital setting.
For more information, visit www.laurel-run.com or phone 716-661-4735.
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