Schenectady County

Annual SEFCU Labor Day race aids veterans (with photo gallery)

Nearly 1,000 runners and walkers entered Monday morning’s SEFCU Labor Day 5k.

Ray Bremm may not have been in all 24 annual SEFCU Labor Day 5ks, but he’s been in a lot of them.

He was in Monday’s with his daughters, grandchildren and family, out for another one in what has become a family tradition.

“I’ve been running for 43 years,” the 79-year-old Bremm, of Albany, said. “It’s sort of addictive.”

Nearly 1,000 runners and walkers entered Monday morning’s race, kicking off from SEFCU headquarters and running through the state office campus.

Each year, the race raises money for charities. This year’s recipients were organizations helping veterans, with a total of $30,000 divided among three groups.

It was a perfect end-of-summer morning for the run, with clear skies.

“It’s a great course, and it’s of course a beautiful day,” said John Parisella. The course, Parisella said, had a couple of hills in it, including a fairly challenging segment in mile 3.

Nick and Rachael Martin of Feura Bush didn’t seem too concerned about any hills on the course. The couple recently did a 10k in the Adirondacks.

“This is a little easier,” Nick Martin said. “That was up in the Adirondacks in the mountains. This is nice, fairly flat.”

The youngest of the couple’s three children, though, 71⁄2-month-old Carter, may have had some reservations, crying from his stroller as his father spoke.

Benefiting from the donations and sponsorships at Monday’s race were Operation Adopt a Soldier, Saratoga County Rural Preservation Co.’s VET HELP program and STRIDE Adaptive Sports’ Wounded Warrior Program.

Operation Adopt a Soldier provides care packages for soldiers; VET HELP provides housing and employment assistance to veterans, and STRIDE helps wounded veterans rebuild their lives through sports and recreation. STRIDE, as the top vote-getter, got $15,000; Adopt-a-Soldier got $10,000 and VET HELP got $5,000.

One of the veterans helped by STRIDE, who also volunteers with the program, was there, riding his organization-provided hand bike. Tracy Evans, who lives near Schroon Lake, was wounded by a car bomb serving with the Army in Iraq in 2004.

“I think it’s great,” Evans said. “I enjoy working with the kids.”

STRIDE also helps other individuals with disabilities, including children.

Michael Castellana, president and CEO of SEFCU, said the veterans organizations couldn’t be more deserving. As far as the race, goes, that just keeps improving, he said.

“It’s the same as each year, but just bigger, better and more people,” he said. “With $30,000 raised, you can feel the enthusiasm around.”

The race was coordinated by the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club. An estimated 100 volunteers helped.

Not all those there were racing. Some were also for personal support.

Tara Stratton was there supporting her boyfriend Matt Smith; both live in Albany. With Stratton was her lhasa apso Fluffernutter. Stratton said she wasn’t running because she isn’t much of a runner. Her boyfriend is.

As far as Fluffernutter, she was sitting on the sidelines, too. “She couldn’t make it,” Stratton explained.

Race Results: The top three men and their times: Mike Roda, Albany, 15:51; Chris Judd, Glenville, 16:10; Jordan Pantalone, Schenectady, 16:18. The top three women and their times: Meghan Davey Mortensen, Rotterdam, 18:51; Crystal Perno, Clifton Park, 19:06; Karen Bertaso, Slingerlands, 19:08.

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