Run With the Cops
On October 5, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh held the fifth annual Run with the Cops Night 5K. Over 30 local law enforcement agencies were represented at the event, and they helped start out the night with a Law Enforcement and Community Expo, which featured police vehicle displays. These vehicles were not only presented before the event, but they also lit up the race path with their red and blue lights. The evening was organized by senior director of special events, Nicci Sprangers, in order to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics program.
“Within a few short years the excitement has spread across the country,” she said. “Law enforcement officers embraced the mission of Special Olympics and now hold a variety of events like Run with the Cops to raise funds and awareness. Annually, more than 85,000 officers from 35 nations, 12 Canadian provinces and 50 U.S. states volunteer and hold events.”
This year, over $67,000 was raised for Special Olympics, which helps local Special Olympic athletes in a variety of different ways.
“The funds will be used to offer all of our local Special Olympics programming and sports competitions free of charge to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Each year Special Olympics offers training and competition opportunities in 18 Olympic type sports.”
To raise money for this program, law enforcement worked hard, especially through the use of social media, to increase awareness about the run and to also raise money for Special Olympics. They also worked hard to recruit over 40 squad cars to line the course to light the way for the runners. After organizing and fund raising for the event, they even ran the event with community members.
“The role of law enforcement in the run was to help develop a unique concept for a 5K run that partners officers and community members and allows for the citizens to see and interact with officers in a positive way,” Sprangers said.
West alumni and current UWO student Alissa Arneson attended the event as a volunteer through her nursing program, where she handed out glow items to runners at what was called a spirit stand. By taking part in this event, she was able to see the positive impact that the run had on the community.
“Having lived in Oshkosh, I have seen the Run with the Cops happen before and I have noticed the positive impact that the event has had on our community,” she said. “I think especially in today’s society, where there is a negative stigma with cops, it’s good to promote that they actually are not bad people, and they are here to do good in the community.”
Interaction with law enforcement not only helps get rid of this stigma, but it also helps community members form a personal relationship with officers.
“It impacts the community because it allows community members to get to know their police officers that are the ones protecting you in your community,” Arneson said. “It’s more of a personal level that you get to know them, and I think it promotes more unity within the community instead of having a divide between law enforcement and the citizens.”
Unity between community members was witnessed by West sophomore Sitota Troedel as she describes the cheering committee arranged by volunteers.
“My favorite part was running while there were so many people cheering, and especially considering how rainy it was I was not expecting that many people to show up,” she said. “We were running and that’s our problem. I thought that was how it would be, but there were so many people that were just so happy to be there.”
This lively atmosphere throughout the run was created by event coordinators, as they intended to keep the event positive and community-focused. Although law enforcement was a central part of the run and the events leading up to it, the community never lost sight of the real purpose for the event.
“It obviously brings Special Olympics into the spotlight,” Troedel said of the event. “We all know somebody who benefits from the program.”
Community involvement to help raise money for Special Olympics was made possible by over 40 local businesses, as well as many other groups who organized teams to run the event and fund raise for it as well.
“The run is an amazing example of community collaboration,” Sprangers said. “The event would not have been possible without the joint efforts of the law enforcement community, the network of support from our Special Olympics participants and volunteers, the UW-Oshkosh campus and over 25 UW-Oshkosh Student Organizations who volunteered to staff all of the key components of the event and stations along the course.”
These volunteers helped to create a positive and impactful event which showcased the community’s support for a program such as Special Olympics while also providing the opportunity for a special night of outreach.
“Our mission is to host a unique nighttime 5K event to showcase how communities can work together to build positive partnerships with local law enforcement,” Sprangers said, “while at the same time raising the funds necessary to support the year- round health and fitness programs that Special Olympics provides for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”