By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
A little ingenuity goes a long way. When the 43rd annual Palisades Will Rogers 5 & 10K Run—a local Independence Day tradition—had to be canceled due to COVID-19, founder and director Brian Shea and his race committee kept their fundraising efforts going strong and last Friday morning at Fire Station 69 on Sunset Boulevard, race t-shirts were presented to Station 69 Captains Tommy Kitahata and Paul Agizi along with other first responders from Stations 69 and 23.
“I give credit where credit is due and it was Pat Peters’ idea when he saw the guys and girls of Station 69 out and about on the Fourth of July,” Shea said. “He thought ‘Well, what the heck?’”
Shea, Chris Carlson and Bill Klein (all members of an early-morning jogging group called the Ridge Runners), started the event in 1978. Shea and Carlson came up with the idea of a holiday race in the Palisades while picnicking together on San Vicente after running the Brentwood l0K on Memorial Day in 1977.
“When we started the 10K we needed the assistance and cooperation of the LAFD,” added Shea, who recalled a heroic moment during the 1997 race when 54-year-old Palisadian Bob Heilemann suffered a cardiac arrest but was revived by a medical team led by Station 69 paramedic Dane Coyle. “This race wouldn’t be if not for our local stations, so we wanted to acknowledge them. We’re also planning to give away race shirts to our local markets and their employees and to St. John’s Hospital medical staff for their hard work during this pandemic. Thank you to all who have contributed during these difficult times and with the cancellation of the race, parade and fireworks that Palisadians have been accustomed to.”
Shea and fellow board members showed up to greet the firefighters and thank them for their service to Palisades neighborhoods.
“It was an honor to be called parade marshals and to be recognized in a small, tight community like this one,” said Egizi, who lives in Simi Valley and has been at Station 69 for a year and a half. “It gives us such joy that we have such a close relationship with the public and knowing they’re rallying behind us. This year my shift was on for the July 4 race, so I was looking forward to it.”
There were enough t-shirts for all three platoons at both Palisades stations–54 to be exact.
“I like cheating to get a shirt and not having to run,” joked Sal Castellion, who lives in Camarillo and has been a fireman at Station 69 for eight years. “I’ve always enjoyed working July 4 at one of the tents.”
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