LODI — A community event aimed at strengthening relationships between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve has found a new home.

The LodiHeroes.org “Heroes Behind the Badge” fundraiser, previously held at the Calturas Winery and Lodi Lake, will this year be held at Jessie’s Grove Winery on Nov. 2. 

“We took a hiatus last year, so we’re very excited to find a park-like venue again,” LodiHeroes.org co-chair June Aaker said. “After losing Lodi Lake and going to Kettleman Lane and Pixley Road, the event kind of lost that park-like feeling that was so inviting for families and the community. Now, I think we’ve found it again.”

The event began in 2015 as a basic meet and greet with local first responders at Lodi Lake. In 2017, Aaker said Lodi Citizens in Action, which organizes the event, wanted to expand activities and decided to incorporate a 10K and 5K run into the fundraiser.

That year, the event was held at Calturas Winery at 1333 E. Kettleman Lane and attracted nearly 150 participants.

However, the concrete course at the venue was not ideal for runners, Aaker said, so Lodi Citizens in Action decided to seek out a more suitable venue.

Aaker, owner of Abrahamson and Big Valley Printing on Pine Street in Downtown Lodi, has several wineries as clientele, one of which is Jessie’s Grove.

She happened to be taking an order to the winery last year and noticed the 320 acres of Jessie’s Grove would be perfect for the 10K and 5K, she said, and discussed the idea with owners Greg and Suzanne Burns.

She and the couple were enthusiastic about hosting the fundraiser this year. The Burns’ were unavailable for comment.

Along with a new venue, the fundraiser will also feature more guests from the law enforcement community.

“In years past we’ve had local law enforcement come out,” Aaker said. “This year we’ve expanded it to have local law enforcement, as well as state and national officials come out, and just anybody at all levels.”

Lodi Police Department officers will be joined by the Partners, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Department of Corrections, the United States Forestry Service, CalFire and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Members of the United States Army, Air Force and Navy will also be attending, Aaker said.

Law enforcement and military officials will be able to speak with attendees 

In addition, she said several members of each agency will be joining runners on the courses through the winery. Members of a Special Weapons and Tactics team will run the course in full gear, and military recruits will march in cadence, Aaker said.

Students from Lodi and Tokay high schools, the University of the Pacific Tiger dancers and mascot Powercat will line the course to cheer on the runners with the help of McGruff the Crime Dog and Smokey the Bear.

There will also be face painting and clowns to entertain youngsters, Aaker said.

Over the course of the three previous Heroes Behind the Badge events, Lodi Citizens in Action and LodiHeroes.org have raised $31,145 for the Lodi Police Foundation.

The funds have helped the foundation and department purchase trauma kits for every patrol vehicle, as well as replacement ballistics shields and helmets.

Aaker said toxic conversations and negative vitriol directed at law enforcement officials on social media in 2014 and 2015 following the events of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Tamir Rice in  Cleveland, Ohio, sparked the creation of the Heroes Behind the Badge event.

“We decided to bring everyone together in our community and get them to really talk with our officers, because we didn’t want that kind of negativity in our town,” she said. “Sure there are bad eggs in law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean all officers are. That’s what we are trying to communicate through this event.”

The Heroes Behind the Badge event is free to the public, but there are registration fees to participate in the 10K and 5K runs.

Registration for the 10K and 5K before Oct. 15 is $40 and $35, respectively. Tickets for the runs after that are $45 for the 10K and $40 for the 5K. 

Students with high school identification cards can register for $25 for the 5K, while elementary and junior high school students with identification cards can register for $15.

Online ticket purchases end Nov. 1, but participants can register the morning of the event at 8 a.m. The run begins at 9. A free fun run for children younger than 6 years old begins at 9:30 a.m. The event ends at noon.

Jessie’s Grove Winery is located at 1973 West Turner Road. For more information about the event, visit www.lodiheroes.org.

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