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Locals strap on running shoes — or tactical boots — to raise funds for good causes

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Posted: Sunday, September 17, 2017 9:30 am

As summer winds down, it’s easy to settle into a slower pace. Fewer morning runs or evening walks, more curling up with a good movie or book and a mug of tea or cocoa.

For a few in Lodi, though, a break from physical activity isn’t even on their radar. They’re still moving, with a goal in mind: raising funds for a variety of causes, from supporting law enforcement officers to fighting child abuse.

Lodi police, Citizens in Action join for Heroes Behind the Badge run

Citizens in Action has been hosting Heroes Behind the Badge for three years now, but this year, they’ve added a new twist.

For the past two years, the event was held at Lodi Lake, with representatives from local law enforcement, volunteers from the Lodi Police Partners and San Joaquin County Sheriff’s STARS, barbecue, music and games.

“It was a big party, more of a meet-and-greet,” said June Aaker of Citizens in Action, who helps to organize the yearly event.

The first year’s event was conceived as a way to bring together Lodi citizens and police in a fun environment, so they could get to know one another. That first event raised more than $8,000 for the Lodi Police Foundation — despite unexpected rain — to purchase trauma kits for every police vehicle.

Last year’s event was much the same, though they raised nearly $14,000 for the Lodi Police Foundation.

But this year, Aaker and co-chairwoman LaRee Rader wanted to change things up. They’d both been eyeing the idea of a fun run.

Along with community members running to support the police, officers from the Lodi Police Department and San Joaquin Sheriff’s deputies will run, too.

Except the two groups of local law enforcement officers decided that a 5K run wasn’t enough of a challenge.

“All of us are either going to run in our full gear, and some of the SWAT guys may run in their SWAT gear,” said Capt. David Griffin.

Griffin, along with Lt. Steve Nelson and Cpl. Misty Springmeyer, recruited a team of about a dozen Lodi officers, dispatchers and other staff who will run alongside their supporters — in boots, vest, gunbelt and other equipment, for an added weight totaling 25 to 30 pounds.

Griffin and Nelson had heard that a team of Sheriff’s deputies would also be running, but didn’t know if they’d be in gear, too. They just wanted the challenge.

“It’s obviously for a good cause,” Griffin said.

The pair hope they’ll have the chance to meet Lodi residents who turn out for the run — and that they’ll be able to finish the 5K, Griffin said.

Why turn out to run in an event meant to celebrate Lodi’s officers?

“From our end, it’s more of a team building (exercise),” Nelson said. He wants to show everyone who turns up at Heroes Behind the Badge to support the police that Lodi’s officers are grateful for that support.

“It’s not about us at all,” he said.

“It’s one more event where we come together as a community and show support for each other,” Griffin added.

Citizens in Action had the same goal.

“It’s basically to bring more awareness, to bring more community involvement, and to build relationships. That was the main reason we did this,” Aaker said.

Superheroes run to fight child abuse and neglect at Lodi Lake

For years, the Trix Run brought plenty of fun for a cause to Lodi Lake. When General Mills left Lodi, the CASA Superhero Run took up the baton to carry on the event, with a new focus: preventing child abuse and neglect.

The Child Abuse Prevention Council and the Court Appointed Special Advocate program partner in San Joaquin County to work on behalf of abused children, intervene with at-risk families, provide clinical services for children and teens with Medi-Cal, and more.

For Ken Smith, executive vice president at Farmers & Merchants Bank, it’s a cause close to his heart.

His wife worked with foster youths as a court-appointed advocate, and Smith has always been passionate about children’s issues. He volunteered with Lodi House for a time, and now sits on the board for the CAPC.

“The bank definitely encourages employees to be involved in community activities that are close to their hearts,” Smith said.

When the Pink October run left Lodi, the group of “cause” runners at F&M were looking for a new reason to stretch their legs. Smith and a few others floated the idea of the Superhero Run.

“A lot of the F&M employees bring their kids,” he said.

The bank employees and a few family members and friends band together for a team of about two dozen runners each year. Some of them walk, some jog.

“There are some serious runners here, who put up some pretty good times — I’m not one of those,” Smith said, laughing.

The bank’s team is more focused on having a good time and raising money for CASA and the Child Abuse Prevention Council, he said.

They also enjoy the natural scenery of Lodi Lake.

“It’s a great place to run. You get to run back into the preserve part,” Smith said.

F&M Bank has been very supportive of the runners — and other volunteer efforts taken up by bank employees — over the years. The bank is very serious about community service, Smith said.

“It’s close to our heart. We want to make the communities we serve better,” he said.

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