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Lee County to host 911 Heroes Run

Marathon to honor first responders and military kicks off Saturday in Lee County

Participants take to the route in Lee County’s 2013 911 Heroes Run, which was established to honor military personnel from the county who died. The 2014 Heroes Run will be Saturday in Leesburg and begin with an opening ceremony at 2 p.m. (File photo)

Participants take to the route in Lee County’s 2013 911 Heroes Run, which was established to honor military personnel from the county who died. The 2014 Heroes Run will be Saturday in Leesburg and begin with an opening ceremony at 2 p.m. (File photo)

LEESBURG —Runners from around the country will gather Saturday in Lee County for the 2nd annual 911 Heroes Run.

This year’s run, which begins in downtown Leesburg, will begin with an opening ceremony at 2 p.m. followed by a 1-mile “fun run” before the primary 5K run begins.

Started last year to honor service men and women and first responders from the area and around the country, the run helps to raise awareness of the many sacrifices members of the armed forces as well as EMTs, police officers and firefighters around the nation make in the name of patriotism.

According to Lee County Commissioner Greg Frich, himself a retired Marine, the heroes run is inspired by patriotism, a concept he believes many around the country don’t fully understand.

“That’s a term we don’t use that much these days,” Frich said. “A patriot is somebody who loves the principals of freedom, duty, honor, sacrifice and service. We’re all called to practice these principals. That’s what makes this country what it is.”

The heroes run honors those who stay on the front line protecting the nation, Frich said.

“The whole idea is to remember the sacrifices of our nation’s patriots and make sure we don’t forget what our nation has done for us,” said Frich. “Those we honor are those who answered the call of patriotism. It’s easy 13 years (after 911) to forget what these front line responders did for us. The example of the firefighters, the EMTs, law enforcement, the military has been exemplary.”

National defense contractor Raytheon Corporation will serve as one of the primary sponsors of the event, along with the 31 Heroes Project, West, Comcast NBC Universal, JWT and Johnson and Johnson.

The Travis Manion Foundation, named for fallen Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in Iraq, is serving as one of the hosts of the event and this year will be working with Flint River Habitat for Humanity to help build a house in Lee County for an eligible veteran and his or her family.

“This year we formed a tighter alliance with Habitat for Humanity,” Frick said. “The Travis Manion Foundation is going to help us identify a veteran and help us get a house built for an eligible veteran in Lee County. It will be the first Habitat house built in Lee County.”

Frich and other event organizers are urging people from the surrounding community to attend the event as either runners or cheerleaders to show their support of the heroes being honored.

Runners are encouraged to wear a sign, write a heroes name on their race number or carry a flag to honor a fallen hero, while non-participants are encouraged to participate by cheering and encouraging runners or by holding a flag or sign dedicated to a hero.

Organized by local volunteers from the community, the Lee County YMCA and the City of Leesburg, the event will hopefully draw in excess of the 150 that attended last year’s event, since organizers have had more time prepare and have a better idea of what to expect, said Frich

“We expect to far exceed (last year’s numbers) this year,” said Frich. “We’ve had a little more to time to plan for this.”

Frich also said that attendance at last year’s run was likely impacted by wet weather directly proceeding the event. The weather this year is predicted to be much better.

“We’ve got a good weather report for Saturday,” Frich said. “It should be a perfect day for running.”