LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Nearly 700 people laced up their running shoes Saturday morning to not only support the Lakeland Police Foundation but to honor our fallen heroes.
Jefferson Blizzard finished the 2023 Fallen Heroes Memorial 5K in 25 minutes and 27 seconds at just 10 years old.
“Yes I finished it,” he said. “It was really hot and hard.”
Blizzard said he’s been running since he is 3 years old, but Saturday’s race hit home for him.
“My uncle is in the Marine Corps, and I thought I should honor him,” he said.
Blizzard wasn’t the only one running in support of our military.
Sam Hodgson ran the 5K with his wife and son cheering him on from the sidelines.
“I’m in the [Army] reserves right now, but I was active duty,” he explained. “I have two friends who passed.”
“I have them on my back,” he continued as he turned around to show the back of his t-shirt. “It’s something to remember them by.”
The reason behind the race is to raise money for the Lakeland Police Foundation, something Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor said helps his officers tremendously.
“It’s tremendous to live in a community where 700 folks will come out on a Saturday morning,” he said. ‘We’ve had people out here since 4:30 a.m.”
“What an honor it is to see people coming out for this event,” Chief Taylor continued.
This year’s 5K also honored our fallen heroes, like Marine and longtime law enforcement officer Paul Dunn.
He died in 2020 after crashing his beloved Lakeland police motorcycle on his way to training.
Captain Eric Harper of the Lakeland Police Department’s criminal investigations unit knew Dunn for over 25 years.
“We worked on several cases together and have been out with each other on several calls,” Harper explained. “He was a great person, great officer and great father.”
“He’s truly missed,” he added.
Click here to see the race results.