TOMS RIVER – There was running, there was walking and there was hugging as the spirit of the holidays came together during the Toms River Police Foundation’s 21st Annual Jingle Bells Run.
Hundreds of people came out on race day, and the fundraising from it will go toward scholarships and donations that the Foundation is involved with. The event was held in Downtown Toms River on Washington Street.
This year the Foundation is spotlighting Cop2Cop, a peer structured organization that helps with Law Enforcement Officers and their families dealing with suicide and suicide awareness.
This year’s race and the organization’s donation was in memory of Toms River Police Detective Glenn Lucas. Last year a scholarship was awarded in memory of Detective Mark Catalano of the Toms River Police Department.
The event included a kiddie dash, a 5-kilometer race and a one-mile fun run. The event proved to be a festive activity as well with many runners donning Santa caps and a variety of red, white and green attire.
Jim Everett wore several hats during the day including a Santa cap as he provided instructions to the race and walk participants who crowded into Mancini Hall in the Toms River Library prior to their particular event. Everett, a retired Toms River police officer, served as the race director and is the Foundation’s president.
“This has been going on for 21 years and the Foundation has had it for the past five years. We took over in 2015 and prior to that the Rotary had and the Chamber of Commerce. The Dover Township PAL organization had it for a while until PAL dissolved,” Everett said.
Everett said that funds collected go to the foundation’s donations of scholarship money to the Toms River Regional School district’s three high schools and to Donovan Catholic.
He noted that Catalano had died suddenly and that he was a triathlete which is why the Foundation decided to honor him with a scholarship.
“We have also partnered with TEAM in the Toms River schools where students are involved with a lot of activities for the community and Donovan (Catholic) has their version of it through Interact,” Everett said.
“After Superstorm Sandy we started spearheading projects to get help for people and we’ve also helped out causes like breast cancer awareness, Hope Sheds Light – which is an organization involved with combatting addiction and helping those with addiction – and we’ve helped veterans by supporting an organization that works with them with horse therapy,” Everett said.
“This makes for a nice Sunday afternoon family event that gets people into the spirit and they enjoy some exercise at the same time,” Everett said.
Santa Claus led the runners on a motorcycle with the help of some elves.
Councilwoman Laurie Huryk took part in the one mile run while her husband Keith ran the 5K run.
“It’s a good cause and I ran the Semper Fi in Seaside Heights. I’m a martial arts instructor so I like to keep fit and this is local,” Keith Huryk said.
“I think it will be fun and it helps a great cause. The weather isn’t bad at all,” Laurie Huryk added.
Mae Meany of Brick and her friend Casey Chiusano of Toms River were matching bookends in their Santa shirts as they posed with Santa for a photo. The two decided to run in the event this year.
“This is our first time and we’re running the 5 K run. We saw it and we decided ‘Let’s do it,’” Chiusano said.
Mayor elect Maurice “Mo” Hill was also present with family members who were decked out in elf green and ready to run. “It is a great fundraiser for the police,” he said. “We had the tree lighting on Friday and this Jingle Bell Run here today on Sunday, the holiday season is truly here in Toms River.”
Everett added, “We try to support to organizations that need help and this year we are supporting NJCop2Cop which is involved with helping officers and their families with suicide and suicide prevention. We are honoring the memory of Glen Lucas who took his life two years ago. This was close to home for us. It hit our department members, friends and family and so we are supporting this cause.”
Initially created as a police stress management hotline, Cop2Cop offers 24-hour/7-day telephone support to officers and their families.
The program involves a team of retired law enforcement professionals who are trained and able to provide on-site debriefing and other Critical Incident Stress Management support.
In response to September 11, 2001 the program expanded its scope to offer support services to all first responders. For more information about this program call 866-Cop2Cop or 866-267-2267.