Laurel, parents create lasting legacy
Editor’s note: Laurel Hotelling died on Monday, but her life, legacy and spirit will live on forever. A memorial service will be held at 10 this morning at the First United Presbyterian Church, 35 Park Place, Silver Creek with Pastor Thomas Burian officiating.
In April 2015, The Resource Center held a ceremony to honor Laurel and her parents. This column was published soon after the event.
CELORON – In 1972, Wayne and Elaine Hotelling of Silver Creek became acquainted with some new kids on the block. Nick Piccolo and his family had moved into the neighborhood, or as Piccolo said, they were and still are “back-door neighbors.”
During that time, Wayne Hotelling was a teacher in the Silver Creek schools and Piccolo was working at the steel plant in Dunkirk, raising three children with his wife, Connie. No one at that time — in both households — could imagine the tremendous path and accomplishments that would come over the next 43 years.
It began with one person who is practically now one of the biggest celebrities in Chautauqua County: Laurel.
“(Our children) never thought any different of Laurel because they were taught that people may look different, people may act different, but they are still people,” said Piccolo, the current mayor of Silver Creek. “You have to show people respect, show them love and show that you care about them.”
Piccolo’s remarks came at a special event in The Resource Center’s facility, which is the former Celoron school. The agency that has been making a difference in people’s lives for so many years, was giving back to some of its biggest cheerleaders over the last two decades in Wayne, Elaine and Laurel Hotelling.
On Tuesday, The Resource Center’s board room was named in recognition of the three who are synonymous with helping others and making things happen during a ceremony.
“Silver Creek is so honored to have the Laurel Run. … It brings a lot of people home,” Mayor Piccolo said. “Wayne and Elaine … we can’t say enough about what they do. They are very open minded … and they work hard at what they do.”
Other high-ranking local officials, including state Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, also spoke of the persistent efforts of the trio.
Wayne Hotelling, in typical fashion, gave credit to others in attendance. But no one can deny what his and Elaine’s work has meant to The Resource Center, this county and for their beloved daughter, who was born with Down syndrome and is the namesake of Laurel Run.
Many county residents participate in the annual event that is held on the third Friday and Saturday of July. The first day includes a relay from Jamestown to Dunkirk and the second includes a full slate of events, including a run and walk, in Silver Creek.
Its beginning, Hotelling said, stemmed from the legacy of Canadian Terry Fox, who in 1980 attempted a cross-country run across Canada after having his leg amputated due to cancer. “I am so thankful for the life of Terry Fox,” he said. “That is what inspired me. … That is what planted the seed. That is where Laurel Run came from.”
Hotelling recalled catching a glimpse of Fox on his run that year while making a trip that crossed through Canada. “He was hoping he could’ve made it to the Pacific Ocean because he dipped his foot into the Atlantic Ocean when he started his trek,” Hotelling said. “He never made it. Ten months later, he passed.”
Fox’s legacy, however, lives on in Canada and in the Laurel Run, which also means a great deal to those who are served by The Resource Center. Brian Samuelson, a senior gentleman who relies on the agency, courageously told the crowd in attendance what the event and family meant to him. “I met them at the first walk-a-thon,” he said, noting he has been volunteering ever since.
But Nickey Riczker, daughter of the Silver Creek mayor, may have left one of the greatest impressions of the afternoon. She, like her dad, recalled growing up in her new home playing kickball and other games with Laurel.
“For me, it was such an honor to grow up next to the Hotellings and to Laurel,” she said. “It really showed me how important it is for individuals with disabilities to participate as members of the community without any sort of distinction about what they can and can’t do.”
Those experiences ultimately led her to a career at The Resource Center, where she serves as human resources director. “It’s because of the experience I had with the Hotellings that I chose to enter this field,” she said. “I can make a difference in the lives of others just as the Hotellings have made a difference in my life.”
John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.