JACKSON, MI – Fully geared firefighters and participating racers are being treated to a county music performance after this year’s 5K race to honor first responders and raise money for injured veterans.
For the third time, Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Sgt. Jan Ganzel is bringing the Tunnel to Towers run and walk to Jackson’s Cascade Falls Park on Saturday, May 18, Armed Forces Day. Check-in and late registration begins at 8 a.m., an opening ceremony begins at 9 a.m. and the race starts at 10 a.m.
“It’s important that we never forget what happened on 9/11, those we have lost since then and the sacrifices that are made every day,” Ganzel said.
The original event, planned annually in New York City, retraces the steps of Stephen Siller, the off-duty New York firefighter who, unable to drive, ran about 3.5 miles with 50 pounds of gear toward the World Trade Center, where he died the day the towers fell. Dozens more runs have since been staged across the country.
This year’s Jackson race is part of the Orthopedic Rehab Specialist Race Series, which provides incentives and opportunities to get fit and active in Jackson and surrounding and communities. Ganzel anticipates about 500 to 600 participants in this year’s 5K because of the partnership.
At 7 p.m., country music artist and combat veteran Matt Williams is performing at the Foundry, 216 Martin Luther King Jr Drive.
Entry is free for all racers who show their race number at the door. The cover charge is $5 for non-racers, with the Foundry donating the money to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Ganzel said.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation builds high-tech “smart homes” for injured service members, giving them greater independence. A triple amputee in Alpena received one in 2016 and there have been about 200 construction projects planned across the country, 75 of which have been completed or are currently being worked on.
The charity also assists families of fallen first responders and veterans who may need financial assistance after losing their loved one in the line of duty.
“People don’t really think about the fine details of what a military family or firefighter family goes through when their loved one is lost,” Ganzel said. “For many, the person who died was the primary ’bread winner’ of the household and their bills won’t just go away when a tragedy happens. This charity help ease the burden.”
In its first year, 2017, the Jackson race raised $27,000 and organizers were recognized nationally for their contribution-event cost ratio. About $30,000 was raised in its second year and officials are aiming to raise more this year.
“Ninety cents of every dollar goes directly to the people the charity is geared toward helping. Not many other charities can say that,” Ganzel said.
A memorial service with a bagpiper will precede the run/walk to honor local firefighters and police officers who died on duty, and to pay tribute to the victims of the 2001 attacks.
To register, set up a fundraising page or find out more, visit the event site at crowdrise.com/t2tJackson2019
The cost is $30 for adults, $25 for veterans and first responders, $20 for children ages 13 to 17 and $17 for children 12 and younger.
Online registration ends May 11. Registration at the event is $40.