Close to 200 people were running, jogging or simply walking in a show of support for local veterans organizations.
Assemblyman Brain Curran held the annual 5k “Run for Heroes” event at Baldwin Park on Saturday morning to help raise money to support VFW and American Legion posts in each of his District 21 communities including Rockville Centre, Malverne, Lynbrook, Baldwin, Freeport and East Rockaway.
“Don’t stand with our veterans, run for them!” was the slogan for this year’s event, according to Curran, who added that he’s been a supporter of veterans’ issues for as long as he can remember.
“Veterans have always been a purpose for me,” Curran said. “You can never appreciate all of the service and sacrifice that they did.”
Curran has a son who attends the United States Military Academy at West Point, which is why the assemblyman said he understands the importance of taking care of veterans.
He also expressed the importance of providing a place in the community where veterans can gather, have a good time with one another, and feel comfortable. The 5k run was a way to make sure that these locations stay open, he said.
“Back in 2010, when I got elected, a lot of the veteran posts in the district were saying how they used to get an influx of grant money and full federal and state money to help keep their doors open,” Curran said. “All of these posts have the very same expenses, such as electric, plumbing, maintenance, and they weren’t able to keep up with it.”
Three veterans’ buildings have closed since 2010 because of financial issues, which is why, in 2011, Curran said he decided to start a run to support these organizations.
“The way that this 5k works is that each participating house gains sponsors, where if they pick up the sponsors, they get to keep all the sponsorship money,” Curran said. “And then all the money is pooled amongst all of the houses at the end of the race with regards to the runner fees that come in the day of the race.”
The pooled money is then distributed equally throughout all the participating veterans’ buildings. Curran explained that some veterans’ organizations, such as those in Lynbrook, do financially better than others, while others in smaller areas like East Rockaway and Baldwin don’t do as well. However, each house gets some money from the run.
Funding for the event also helps cover the cost of banners and medals for the winners. Each participating community usually raises anywhere from $5,000 to more than $10,000 for the veterans’ homes.
Curran pointed out that Vanta is one of the main sponsors of the event, hosting three of the races, as well as helping to provide food for the event.
“We have fun doing this event and the veterans really appreciate it,” Curran said.
Frank Colón, commander of the American Legion Post No. 303 in Rockville Centre, said he was grateful for the show of support for local veterans organizations. During the race, he helped pitch in at the finish line, holding the ribbon as the first place runners completed the course.
“It was a great event,” Colón said. “Hats off to Brian Curran for supporting the veterans and for all of the great work he does for the veterans and the community.”
Colón also thanked Paul Casazza of American Legion Post 303 for his work to help organize the event as chairman of the race committee, and local elected officials including Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach, East Rockaway Mayor Gordon Fox, Malverne Mayor Tim Sullivan and Nassau County Legislator William Gaylor for their participation this year.
Curran also mentioned other ways that people can support local veterans throughout the year. He said that they could participate in Veteran Stand Down, which is a one- to three-day event, during which people provide homeless veterans with supplies and services, including food, shelter, clothing and health screenings. Curran also urged his constituents to be very vocal in support of veterans’ issues.
“The percentage of veterans that are homeless is astounding and horrific at the same time, that somebody who served this country is out on the street,” Curran said. “So there are a lot of different ways that people can help our veterans and service members, and this run is just one of those ways.”