22nd annual Laurel Run takes place July 20 and 21

Submitted Photo Laurel Hotelling (front center) poses with some of the people who took part in last year’s relay run.

Special to the OBSERVER

Hundreds of people will come together later this week in support of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities when the 22nd annual Laurel Memorial Run & Walk takes place.

The event was created by Wayne and Elaine Hotelling of Silver Creek in honor of their oldest daughter, Laurel, who had Down syndrome. The Laurel Memorial Run & Walk is a two-day celebration of the potential that exists within people who have disabilities. This year’s event will be especially emotional because it will be the first without Laurel, who died in November at the age of 54.

The action begins Friday, July 20, with the traditional Laurel Run flag relay. A kickoff ceremony will be held at 8 a.m. in The Resource Center’s facility at 75 Jones & Gifford Avenue in Jamestown. Then, teams of volunteer runners will take turns transporting Laurel Run flags to Dunkirk. Representatives from a number of area schools, as well as the Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Brocton, will run the various legs of the relay.

The relay concludes at Washington Park, where the city of Dunkirk will host a victory celebration from noon to 2 p.m. The community is invited to come out and cheer on the last relay runners as they make their way along Central Avenue to the finish.

For the sixth straight year, several people will attempt to run the entire 30-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 661-4735 for information.

Friday’s events are a warm-up for the main Laurel Run activities, which take place the following day in Silver Creek. Check-in and late registration begin at 7:00 a.m. in the village square. At 8:30 a.m., a 5-kilometer fitness walk and a 1-kilometer fun walk will begin, followed at 9 a.m. by an 8-kilometer running race.

For the 5k 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 at The Resource Center. This year’s medals features photos of Laurel affixed to pieces of birch wood, which is appropriate because in recent years she had lives in The Resource Center’s home on Birchwood Drive in Fredonia.

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. The race is part of the UPMC Chautauqua WCA Runner of the Year Series.

Besides the individual competition, there will be a corporate challenge competition. Awards will be given to the three fastest teams in both the 5k walk and the 8k run, with a team’s time determined by the combined times of its first four finishers.

The registration fee for the 8k run, the 5k walk and the 1k walk is $20 until July 18, when the fee rises to $25. All paid registrants will receive a 2018 Laurel Memorial Run T-shirt as well as a goody bag made by production workers at The Resource Center. People can earn free entry into Laurel Run by collecting pledges.

Saturday’s events also will include fun runs for children age 7 and younger starting at 10 a.m., followed by Laurel’s Legacy Lap, which is for anyone with a disability. The cost to enter the fun runs in $3 per child or a total of $5 for families with two or more children. There is no fee to enter Laurel’s Lap.

Throughout the morning, there will be a party in the village square featuring free food; music; prize drawings; face painting; massages; and other activities.

Money raised through Laurel Run 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.

For more information, visit www.laurel-run.com.