More than just a race, Run With the Cops brings positivity to law enforcement and welcomed support for Special Olympics athletes.
The event slated for Thursday, Oct. 6 on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus includes the fun of well-stocked glow stations, an interactive law enforcement vehicle expo, doughnut eating contest and community-building with law enforcement. Proceeds from the 5K event benefit Special Olympics Wisconsin—keeping its opportunities free for all athletes.
“I feel Special Olympics fills my cup,” said UW Oshkosh Acting Police Chief Chris Tarmann, who has spent many hours organizing Run With the Cops. “You do your job the best you can and don’t always get that positive feedback.”
The athletes, Tarmann said, are kind, non-judgmental and exemplify how people should act, even when they don’t win an event. The joy of being with Special Olympians, he said, provides “something you don’t get in law enforcement.”
Edward Kastern is a Special Olympics athlete who is part of the staff of Special Olympics Wisconsin.
Kastern, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UWO in 2010 (with a minor in radio TV film), said Special Olympics had a very big impact on his life—and is about much more than sports.
“It gave me the confidence and courage to go to college,” he said, “and it teaches you independence.”
It also helped him get his job as a leadership specialist and helps pay the bills—he has a 3-year-old daughter at home.
Kastern usually gets around with a wheelchair, but he has used a walker for short-term need. He has competed in a number of Special Olympics sports: basketball, bocce, bowling, gymnastics, track and powerlifting. His dream is to someday go to the USA Games as an athlete or athlete leader.
Bryttany Biesemeier, Special Olympics Wisconsin director of development for Regions 4 and 5, credits the event’s success to the committed officers and agencies that show up from all around the region, as well as UWO students who volunteer and participate in the nighttime 5K on campus.
“Coming out of a rough last couple of years, we are excited to see the event being held again with no restrictions, and have high hopes that we will get back to the participation and excitement of previous years,” Biesemeier said.
The course will shift due to construction along Algoma Boulevard. Runners will travel the Wiouwash Trail along the Fox River for a portion of the 5K run/walk. The starting/ending point will be at Lot 6 at the Culver Family Welcome Center, 625 Pearl Ave. An indoor gathering space will be in Ballrooms B and C of the Culver Center.
Attendees will gather and mingle from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at in parking Lot 6 at the Culver Center where squad cars, tactical vehicles, a mobile command center and military vehicles are expected for up-close viewing.
The kids’ race begins at 6:30 p.m.; kids and cops donut eating contest takes place in the parking lot at 7 p.m.; and the 5K run/walk starts at 7:30 p.m. with glow stations along the course.
Tarmann said the event gives the community a chance to hang out with law enforcement.
“We want people to know that we are human beings and we like to have a good time and to help a good cause,” he added.
He estimates the Oshkosh Run with the Cops event has raised about $350,000 over the past eight to nine years. Participation has been as high as around 1,000, but more recently has attracted between 500 and 600 runners and walkers.
Law enforcement will be represented by at least a dozen agencies from around Oshkosh and the Fox Valley, and stretching to Marquette and Green Lake counties.
Star Protection of Oshkosh is the presenting sponsor of this year’s event. Pre-entry for runners and walkers is $30 and $35 on race day—a sum that Tarmann said some students earn by crowd-sourcing pledges.
Oshkosh was the first to bring Run with the Cops to Wisconsin, an event that currently is held at three additional locations across the state (River Falls, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids).
Tarmann remembers being on patrol over a decade ago, working at a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings. Tip money and a portion of proceeds went to Special Olympics.
Biesemeier said Tarmann has gone “above and beyond” for Special Olympics Wisconsin. In June, he represented Wisconsin in the final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run before the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.
“Athletes show up to events where they instantly recognize Chris Tarmann and are ready for high fives and fist bumps all around,” Biesemeier said, crediting him for a great experience for participants, volunteers and athletes. “He really supports our mission and the athletes and makes putting together this event not only fun but also easier.”