Plenty of ‘gratitude’ for Laurel Run

We wish to thank everyone who played a part in making the 17th annual Laurel Run such a tremendous success. When Silver Creek residents Wayne and Elaine Hotelling held the first Laurel Run in 1997, the event was meant to be a one-time thing, a tribute to their oldest daughter, who has Down syndrome. Back then, the Hotellings never could have imagined that Laurel Run would evolve into an annual event that touches the lives of hundreds of people.

To me, Laurel Run showcases a wonderful sense of “community” that is displayed in a number of different ways. On one hand, you have the community that is the village of Silver Creek, which hosts the main Laurel Run events the third Saturday of July every year. The support we receive from the mayor’s office, the department of public works, the fire department, and the emergency squad is invaluable, and we would not be able to conduct our running and walking events without them.

We are grateful, too, for the support we receive from the First United Church, Matt Bogosian and The Back Line, and Tony Pearl, “The Great Lake Drifter” (who entertains the crowd with his singing and guitar playing every year). We also are so appreciative of the Silver Creek area businesses that sponsor Laurel Run every year, as well as all of the village residents who come out to volunteer or participate in Laurel Run.

And then there’s the community that is the Silver Creek Central School District. It’s inspiring to see so many of Wayne’s former students and athletes get behind Laurel Run every year. A number of Silver Creek alumni who now live outside the local area make it a point to return to their hometown each year to take part in Laurel Run. And current students have gotten on board by taking part in the Jamestown-to-Dunkirk Laurel Run flag relay.

Speaking of the relay, we’re grateful for the community of school districts across the area that take part in the relay run every year. We hope that by participating, these youths will develop an even deeper appreciation for people with disabilities and will make it a point to support and advocate for people with disabilities throughout their lives.

We also thank the community of local law enforcement agencies. Patrol cars from Dunkirk, Fredonia, Jamestown, and Ellicott escorted the relay runners on their journey, and employees of the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Facility bring an inspiring end to the flag relay each year by leading the last set of runners along Central Avenue. We are especially grateful this year for the support of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department, which worked with the Village of Silver Creek and New York State Police to keep runners and walkers safe during the main Laurel Run events.

We extend our gratitude to the city of Dunkirk, which each year hosts a victory celebration at the conclusion of the flag relay. We’re grateful to Dunkirk and the other municipalities and businesses (particularly area Tim Hortons locations) that allow us to sell copies of the OBSERVER’s annual Laurel Run edition. And we can’t thank enough Publisher John D’Agostino and his staff for printing the edition every year. This initiative is a tremendous fund-raiser for Laurel Run and also is a great way to promote the event as well as educate the public about some of our day-to-day efforts on behalf of persons with disabilities.

We also thank the community that is the local media for helping to promote Laurel Run.

We thank the community of local businesses who sponsor Laurel Run by providing financial contributions as well as raffle and auction prizes, plus those who support the event in other ways, such as serving as a stopping point for the motorcycle dice run. And we’re grateful to Kwik Fill and Red Apple Food Mart, which each year sell Laurel Run paper sneakers at their locations, and for the Pizza Hut restaurant in Fredonia, which annually holds a Laurel Run fund-raiser.

We are grateful for the community that is The Resource Center and Filling the Gap, Inc., which work together to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Chautauqua County. Many of our employees volunteer their time to help organize Laurel Run, and then carry out the event. But what is perhaps most inspiring is the way that individuals with disabilities embrace Laurel Run and take ownership of the event. People with disabilities make the medals that are given as prizes to the walkers and runners; they make and stuff the goody bags given to Laurel Run participants; they organize the flag relay kickoff breakfast; and they volunteer at Laurel Run. People with disabilities are the heart and the soul of Laurel Run.

And then there’s the large community of people who want to make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities, and they do this by donating to Laurel Run or participating in the event in some other way.

On behalf of the Hotelling family and everyone at The Resource Center and Filling the Gap, I want to thank everyone who played a part in making the 2013 Laurel Run a success! We hope we’ll see everyone at the 18th annual Laurel Run, July 18-19, 2014.

Steve Waterson is the director of community relations, marketing and development for The Resource Center.