By Bill Landon
The annual Patriot Run is more than a fundraiser, it’s a Shoreham-Wading River community get together and healer.
On Oct. 30 at Wildwood State Park, over 400 runners gather for the second annual Patriot Run to honor Thomas Cutinella, the Wildcats football player who was fatally injured in a football game in October 2014.
The 2.54-mile run — 54 being Cutinella’s jersey number — is sponsored by the Shoreham-Wading River’s athletic club. Memorial shirts and prizes were awarded to the top finishers, and there was a barbeque following the race.
“We don’t advertise this, and if we did, we would have a thousand people — [The event and the turnout] is remarkable and we’re happy to be here, it’s a good time,” said Frank Cutinella, Thomas’ father. “People don’t want to forget Tom, and it’s a way to stay positive.”
In a show of solidarity, the Suffolk County sheriff’s emergency response team led the race, carrying the American flag.
“We just wanted to show that the Suffolk County sheriff’s department supports the local community,” said Michael Poetta, one of the nine members to carry the flag. “We wanted to come out and honor Thomas Cutinella’s [memory].”
There were awards given out in four categories — girls and boys under 18 years old, and girls and boys over 18. Runners of all ages enjoyed the unusually pleasant temperature for the race that cost $25 to run in. All proceeds benefited the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation and scholarship fund.
“It’s real nice that the community does this,” said Kevin Cutinella, Thomas’ younger brother. “It was [John] Regazzi’s idea — he put it together and it turned out well, so this is the second year the community comes out [to continue to do] good things for our family.”
Regazzi, a local community member, said he organized the event because he just wanted a nice community outing to support a worthy cause and remember Thomas Cutinella’s legacy.
“It’s a wonderful community,” Regazzi said of the area. “I wanted to bring people together to do something positive in honor of Thomas Cutinella. He was a positive person, a leader in the community, and I wanted to keep that spirit alive.”
First across the line was Shoreham resident Eric Dilisio, a sophomore at Shoreham-Wading River. He crossed the finish line in 14 minutes, six seconds, which was well ahead of the second-place finisher. The top finisher for the girls was Emily Cook, and first across the finish line for the adults was Alana Philcox and Jeff Kraebel.
Kraebel, of Rocky Point, said he only heard the race less than a couple hours before the start, and jumped on his motorcycle to cruise over, sign up and run in the race.
“I’m a firm believer in contact sports and letting the kids play, but after the tragedy I loved the community’s [response] — how everyone rallied — it didn’t terminate their season, it drove the kids to play better,” Kraebel said. “It’s the power of positivity, so it was my pleasure to drop $25 to come here and run today.”