By Andrew Goldstein and Eric Schmid
Five-hundred thirty-one runners competed in the 37th annual Veterans Day Cross Country 4k on November 4 at the golf course adjacent to the Northport VA Medical Center in Northport, New York.
The race, hosted by the Northport Running Club, saw participants of all skill levels, from walkers to Paralympians. More than just a competitive event, all of Saturday’s proceeds go to the Northport VA Medical Center.
“We’re able to come in and help the entertainment and wellbeing of the hospitalized and the homeless at the VA medical center,” Michael Roux, the race organizer, said. “For example, the post-traumatic stress unit had a pool table but it was damaged, the felt was ripped, the balls were chipped, the cues were bent and you can’t requisition a new pool table. The money is more needed for the hospital itself.”
The race raises around $3,000 a year to help fund quality-of-life products for the hospital like televisions and iPad stands for bedridden patients. “The hospital staff know we exist,” Roux explained. “They send us requests.”
Cash prizes were awarded to the top overall and masters male and female runners. Mikey Brannigan, 2016 Paralympic games 1,500 meter gold medalist, won Saturday’s race in 12:05 minutes.
Saturday’s race is one of eight in the Suffolk County Veterans Race Series which all support veterans. Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive, and Tim Scherer, the organizer of Huntington’s “I Did The Grid” race, thought of organizing the series while discussing creating a Suffolk County Marathon, Bellone explained. While many of the runs have taken place for decades, the series is only two years old.
“There are a number of different runs that involve veterans causes,” he said. “Why don’t we put them all together and create a veterans racing series?”
The Suffolk County Marathon, one of the series races, was held a week before the 4k cross country race.
“The best thing about the Suffolk County Marathon is that all the proceeds go to support veterans in Suffolk County,” Mike Polansky, Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) President, said. “Last year, we donated around $160,000 to seven or eight different veterans organizations in Suffolk County.”
The GLIRC organized the marathon and the collection and distribution of proceeds.
Other organizations and people, like Team RWB, see veterans races as opportunities to foster good experiences and quality relationships.
“RWB’s mission is to connect our veterans to our community through physical and social activities,” Lisa Prudenti, Community Service Coordinator with Team RWB, said.
“What this is really doing is helping people become more engaged in the community,” Will Fruin, a Marine veteran and race participant, said. “It’s getting together and having a great time and enjoying the community with each other.”
The final race in the 2016 Suffolk County Veterans Race Series is the Hope for the Warriors race next weekend.