HASBROUCK HEIGHTS/WOOD-RIDGE, NJ -- Friday morning students from Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge joined local law enforcement officers in the 36th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey.
Members of Hasbrouck Heights Police Department and children and staff from the Lincoln and Euclid elementary schools and the middle school took the “Flame of Hope” from Lodi officials at 9:47am. The flame proceeded up Williams Avenue, turned south on to the Boulevard, passed Hasbrouck Heights High School and Middle School, rounded the circle and down Valley Boulevard. The Hasbrouck Heights contingent was lead by Hasbrouck Heights Chief for a Day Liliana Riordan. Escorting the runners were members of the New Jersey State Police and Lyndhurst EMS.
The Hasbrouck Heights delegation was greeted at the Wood-Ridge border by the Wood-Ridge Fire Department displaying a huge American flag. At 10:30 am, they met and handed off the torch to members of the Wood-Ridge Police Department and their first-ever Chief for a Day Dante Neseconti and his Deputy Chief Valentina Neseconti at Valley Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue. Students and staff from Wood-Ridge Intermediate School and Wood-Ridge Junior/Senior High School then joined the Wood-Ridge officers and continued with the flame down Valley Boulevard onto North Street and passed Wood-Ridge Intermediate School where they were cheered on by students. The procession headed onto Union Street and Hackensack Street south, handing off the flame at the Carlstadt border to awaiting officers.
Students from Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge participated in the day. Some by running, others by cheering on the officers and students. According to Joseph Mastropietro, principal at Hasbrouck Heights Middle School, the Junior Aviatos sent 60 students, 31 from sixth grade. Euclid Elementary School had 195 students running, said principal Michael Sickels, which is over half the school, he noted.
"Our kids in Heights are amazing and understand that we should do whatever we can to help others that could use our help," said Sickels.
"The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is a wonderful event. I love how our students get the opportunity to be a part of the passing of the torch," said Mastropietro. "We have an amazing police department that our students really look up to. The best part is that all of the money raised goes to the Special Olympics. A special thank you to Chief Colaneri and Sergeant Baker for going above and beyond to get our students and the community involved."
The Wood-Ridge Intermediate School was represented by 70 runners, from grades four through six, and one teacher, said principal Keith Lisa, who noted it was almost 30% participation rate.
"It's for a great cause and helps to raise awareness for those with special needs," said Lisa. "In addition, it emphasizes WRIS's commitment to exercise and physical fitness."
Members of the Hasbrouck Heights Police Department who ran included Chief Michael Colaneri, Sr., Captain Joseph Rinke, Lt. Michael Colaneri, Jr., Detective Sgt. Alan Baker, Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Werner, Detective Sergeant John Behr, Detective Brad Dussault, and Patrolman Michael DeSimone.
According to Detective Sergeant Al Baker, Hasbrouck Heights had a total of 480 students run and raised $28,000 for Special Olympics.
The Torch Run began in New Jersey in 1984 as a way to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics New Jersey, according to its website. The run is a day-long event, split into 26 legs (or starting points) with some legs beginning as early as 4:45 a.m. The event travels through more than 300 towns, covering 750 miles on-foot.
The legs of the run gradually come together, ending in the evening at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ, just in time for the lighting of the cauldron at the Special Olympics New Jersey Summer Games Opening Ceremony.
This year 3,000 runners and 375 police departments are expected to participate and fundraise, according to the organizers.
Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge are in Leg 6 of 26. Its leg began in Garfield and continued through Lodi, Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Rutherford, North Arlington, Lyndhurst, Secaucus, Kearny, East Newark, and finished in Harrison.
Editor's Note: we will be running stories on the Chief for a Day from both Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge in the coming days.
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