Laurel Run encompasses love

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew Kuczkowski Runners begin their 8K journey on Central Avenue in Silver Creek for Laurel Run on Saturday. The race goes down Central then loops through the village to return back on Main Street. Many racers note the difficulty of the hills in the village.

SILVER CREEK – Johanna Cortes had a special motivation on Saturday as she had her running clothes on and her daughter, Virginia Seekings, right there with her. The pair were at the 23rd annual Laurel Run with many other racers that meandered around the village for the run.

Laurel Run is an event that showcases the skills that those with disabilities have and the event’s namesake, Laurel Hotelling, emboldened such traits, though she passed away in 2017.

Cortes prepped for the 8K race, which is about 5 miles, and her daughter presented a smile in excitement as she gets a view the Northern Chautauqua County village. Despite Seekings being in a wheelchair, Cortes sees the importance of events like Laurel Run and having her daughter participate in any way.

“It’s not a disability, it’s a capability,” Cortes said. “It’s like, ‘What is their hidden talent?’ That’s where it resonates with me. Where my daughter cannot run the race, but she can enjoy the experience of it. That is going to build on her character and how she feels about other people in the world.”

For Elaine Hotelling, the mother of Laurel, the event really hits home the strengths people with disabilities have and how we are all much the same.

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew Kuczkowski Heather Potter, right, gives a high five to Andrea Nalepa, wearing number 10, of Fredonia as she nears the finish line on Main Street for the 5K walk at Laurel Run on Saturday in Silver Creek.

“It shows that people with disabilities really have a lot of abilities, (especially) when you stop and think all of us have disabilities somewhere along the line,” Hotelling said. “We forget about those. When you see somebody with a disability, you forget they have all these abilities, too.”

Laurel Run had embraced talents from members of two local organizations that assist those with disabilities, People Inc. and The Resource Center. The Resource Center created prizes for the winners and lanyards for the participates. While those from People Inc. gave support alongside the track by cheering on runners as they finish out the track.

“I love to see everybody come together as a community but also to bring awareness to people with disabilities and what they can do,” said Amber Ziolkowski, a senior day supervisor for People Inc. in Silver Creek.

Steve Waterson, the community relations director for The Resource Center, sees the direct beneficial impact the event is making on those with special needs. In addition to the sense of accomplishment of making the awards, the event prioritized the change they can make.

“That’s the message behind Laurel Run and the reason that Wayne and Elaine Hotelling started it,” Waterson said. “It was to emphasize that people with disabilities can accomplish great things, they just need to have the opportunity to prove themselves. Their daughter, Laurel, did that by having a job at the artwork center for 33 years.”

Shawn Wiler placed first in the 8K run.

Twitter: @ByKuczkowski