Tribute Race for Fallen Soldier Continues to Grow

As cold as it was Saturday, it was with warm thoughts that many in the Homer Glen community gathered for the fourth annual Mike Hike 5k.

Through community collaboration, this was the most successful year for the event, with a record 400 participants and 40 local sponsors. The race took place at the village of Homer Glen Heroes trail, which was dedicated to Army Pfc. Michael C. Olivieri in 2011.

Olivieri was killed in June 2011 while serving his country in Iraq. The race pays tribute to him and all American heroes, as proceeds and donations go toward commemorative plaques to honor local soldiers and to support trail amenities such as benches and public safety devices.

The race was preceded by an opening ceremony that included Lockport Township High School’s ROTC. Instead of a moment of silence for fallen soldiers, there was an enthusiastic round of applause to thank them.

Members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart also spoke at the ceremony, praising soldiers such as Olivieri and saying they never will be forgotten.

Olivieri’s parents were in attendance and said they are thankful for the amount of growth and involvement they have seen in the event over the years.

“We very much appreciate everybody being here and being involved,” said Mike Olivieri, Michael’s father. “Some of the volunteers are neighbors of ours, so it’s great to see the Homer Glen community come together in this way.”

Also in attendance was Kevin Lee, who met Michael in the Army. Aside from last year, when he was in Afghanistan, he has attended every race.

“I was there when he died, so I do this to support him. This is the only race I run because the cause is near and dear to my heart,” Lee said.

Since the Homer Glen Foundation reached out to the Olivieri family to put on the event four years ago, it has grown with success each year.

Laurel Ward, president of the Homer Glen Foundation, said, “With the financial support of our presenting sponsor, First Community Financial Bank, we have made improvements to the Mike Hike this year. Each participant will receive a commemorative Mike Hike dog tag, and the winners walk away with a medal.”

Ward said the number of race categories increased this year from four to 10.

Children and adults alike participated in the race, which was followed by a 5K walk along the trail. Sponsors provided water and Gatorade, as well as pre- and postrace stretching.

[Via: The SouthtownStar]

About Allison Matyus