More than 200 people laced up their running shoes to participate in the first Brighton Area Fire 9/11 Memorial 5K Run/Walk event in downtown Brighton on Saturday morning.
In addition to running shoes, many of the participants also wore turnout gear, helmets and tanks on their backs – adding 55 to 60 extra pounds, according to Brighton Area Fire Chief Mike O’Brian.
O’Brian was the third firefighter to finish the race in gear. He said it was his first time running a 5K in his turnout gear.
“It added about six or seven minutes to my regular time,” he said. “I look at it as all being mental. I keep the thought of stopping out of my head. And it’s awkward because the tank rocks when you run. But everybody out cheering really helped.”
O’Brian said the community support of the event blew his mind.
“We were hoping to get at least 100 people,” he said.
All the proceeds for the 5K will go towards finishing the 9/11 Memorial in front of Fire Station 31. Brighton was one of several locations that received pieces of the World Trade Center Tower last year, which now hangs in the memorial in front of the fire station. O’Brian said the funds will help purchase a monument sign, move flag poles and engrave the names of the 343 firefighters who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The event drew firefighters from surrounding departments like Hartland and Howell. Hartland Firefighter Walter Johnston said it was "truly an honor to walk with people I work with for such a worthy cause."
Many local families also turned out to support the cause. Brighton resident Jack LaPan ran the entire 5K while pushing a stroller holding his 6-year-old daughter, Addison, and 3-year-old son, Aven. LaPan said he often brings them along when he runs 5K events.
LaPan’s wife Carolyn crossed the finish line not too long after he did.
“It’s a family thing,” LaPan said of running. “I want them (kids) to experience this. I want to teach them to be active in the community and to be healthy.”
The LaPans weren’t the only family participating. Brighton resident Matt Matuszak and his son, Vince, 12, also ran. Matuszak said they came out because it was a local event. Vince is on the cross county team at Scranton Middle School and said he’s been in too many 5K events to count.
For more information on the 9/11 Memorial Run/Walk, visit www.isupportbrighton.com.