Charity Marks Decade With A Run


More than 475 runners from all across Long Island, came together on Aug. 30, for the tenth annual Companions in Courage one-mile run.


For Andrea Kopatka, 49, of Levittown, this was her first race in three years. 


“I wanted to run this race before I turned 50,” she said. “It was on my bucket list.” 


Soaring past some of her fellow competitors, Kopatka was greeted at the finish line by her son and husband, who cheered her on every step of the way. 


Each year, Companions in Courage, a 501(3)(c) non-profit charity created by NHL Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, invites runners of all ages to compete in a one mile sprint for the organization. Lafontaine, who ran wearing his same no. 16 bib, said that all of the funds raised from the event go towards the charity. 


“During my days as a New York hockey player, a lot of the Islanders were involved in the community,” LaFontaine said.


Having to sit out an entire season after sustaining a knee injury, LaFontaine said he started to visit children at the hospitals. “Their courage, fortitude and attitude just inspired me,” he said.


After writing a book about his experience, LaFontaine estabilshed the foundation which builds high tech interactive game rooms in children’s hospitals, which gives the kids a chance to connect with some of their favorite athletes.


“The rooms help 50,000 kids a year and are in hospitals all over the country and provide a way for kids just to be kids.”


Companions in Courage Executive Director Jim Johnson said he is proud to have helped the charity host the race for the past decade.


“The thing about this is that you can have people who run a 4-minute mile and then you have 95-year-old Bill Benson who is competing in the same event, and it doesn’t matter if you finish in 4 minutes or 24 minutes,” Johnson said. “The whole idea is to bring the community together and help sick kids in hospitals.”


Johnson said that apart from himself, 14 members of his extended family came out to Farmingdale to compete in this year’s event.


Finishing first overall, 26-year-old Rolanda Bell won the women’s run. But that didn’t stop the other women for taking their place in the race.  


Joan Ackerman, 74, of Farmingdale said she has been running since she was 40.


“I did better than I thought I would do,” Ackerman said. “I run in this race because it’s my hometown otherwise I wouldn’t because a mile is too intimidating.”


Ackerman said she recommends that anyone who wants to race starts slow. She said she started by going around the track, ¼ mile walking and running before she was able to finish the entire mile.


Issack Kator of Huntington finished first among the men, running the mile in 4 minutes and 13 seconds.


Bringing up the rear of the race with a respectable finish of 11 minutes and 14 seconds, was 95-year-old Bill Benson who was met at the finish line by LaFontaine.


“The joy in the race is not in the winning, it’s in the running,” Benson said. “That is [something] we should all live by.”


After all of the runners crossed the finish line, awards were given to the top runners, before family and friends retired to Croxley Ales for a well-deserved drink.


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