Dozens of supporters turned out at The Resource Center's facility on Jones & Gifford Avenue as runners prepared to begin their journey to Dunkirk on Friday morning.
"I think events such as the Laurel Run, which has been going on now for 17 years, are opportunities for the larger community associated with The Resource Center to pause and understand this organization and the people that we help," said Paul Cesana, president of The Resource Center. "We want people to understand our clients' desire to feel productive, be independent and be a part of the community. That doesn't happen as a matter of course. It only happens through support, provision of critical services and the participation of the community at large."
Steve Waterson, The Resource Center community relations director, was one of the many runners that turned out on Friday to participate, although he had a different plan than many of the runners. Waterson, instead of running the race as a relay, planned to run the entire 30-mile course himself. In the event that he couldn't finish on foot, his support team also had a bicycle available for him.
Dozens of supporters came to the starting point of the 17th annual Laurel Run on Friday, including county Legislator Lori Cornell, state Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I, Chautauqua County, and more. Steve Waterson, an employee of The Resource Center, began his 30-mile run to Dunkirk at 9 a.m.
P-J photo by Ryan Atkins
Cesana applauded the extra effort that Waterson put toward the event.
"These are extraordinary times, and Steve is trying to do something extraordinary himself," Cesana said. "He's been so committed to work with the Hotelling family and Laurel. After losing some of the major sponsors in the Silver Creek area, (Steve) decided to make this commitment to run 30 miles and do his part to make a difference. We all support him and look forward to seeing him help make a difference."
Waterson set a goal of raising $5,000 this year, which would cover the amount of money he raised in 2012, as well as the lost sponsorship money. Two other Western New York men also ran the 30-mile relay route - Paul Gavin of Dunkirk and Keith Gregoire of Williamsville. Money raised through the Laurel Run goes to Filling the Gap Inc., which works with The Resource Center to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
"We're going through some extraordinary times now, including a major reduction in funding, and there are efforts to change what has been the traditional system for the last three or four decades," said Cesana. "This major systemic change has to do with expecting and supporting the idea that people, even with significant developmental disabilities, should still receive the same opportunities as others in more typical community settings. These people that are working to bring awareness to that are doing something extraordinary."