WESTFIELD, NJ — A Westfield native is honoring his late brother by bringing the community together for a fun and charitable event.
The first Night of Lights 5K is set for Sunday, Sept. 8, as a way for Sam Tooley to keep alive the memory of his brother Jake, 19, who died in a house fire in August 2017. The race is Tooley’s way of honoring his brother, who he said was a selfless and special person.
“We had been through a lot together growing up and his ability to put others before himself was something I genuinely admired,” Tooley said. “It was almost confusing to me how someone could be so selfless. Family meant everything to him and he wanted to take care of everyone.”
Honoring his brother is not the only reason Tooley created the event.
Tooley said he wants to bring the community together in a fun and exciting way, much like the other races that take place in Westfield. Seeing the joy on people’s faces, whether they enjoy running or not, is something Tooley is excited for and something, he said, his brother would have loved to have seen.
“There is something tangible to the happiness that takes hold of the community during these special events,” Tooley said. “From the Pizza Run to Greta's Run and the Turkey Trot — when you're at these races, it's like the rest of the world doesn't exist; you're just there and present and happy.”
Tooley hopes that the 5K will become a staple of the Westfield community and something that community members can look forward to every year to end the summer and kick off the fall.
Excited to see his race come to fruition, Tooley looks forward to seeing his friends, family, and fellow gym members, among other people, join in on the fun. He expects it to be a very emotional and special night for him and his family.
Tooley looks ahead to the future and is excited to see the race 50 years from now.
“I'll be 75 years old and shooting off the gun to a race I started half a century ago in memory of my amazing little brother,” Tooley said. “It'll be the biggest road race in the state. Right in our hometown. All for Jake.”
Through this 5K, Tooley also wants to recognize and honor the people who were there for him and his family when they lost Jake.
“We are incredibly lucky and are surrounded by good people who will support us in our times of need like my family was,” he said. “I want to honor that.”
If you go
The first Night of Lights 5K is set for Sunday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m., at Tamaques Park, 10 in Westfield. Proceeds will directly benefit Westfield’s first responders through the Tooley Legacy Foundation. The deadline to register online is Sept. 7. Participants may register on race day for $40 cash. Click here for the full registration details.