By Anthony Wojtkowiak
Gloucester City NEWS Correspondent
GLOUCESTER CITY NJ-The Ninth Annual Heroes to Hero 5k was Saturday, October 9, at 9am. According to event organizer Jerry Hubbs, himself an avid runner, says the event was attended by over 1,000 people and raised close to $40,000. Hubbs says the event has grown significantly since its first year when the total number of participants was “around the 400 range”.
PHOTO: CHIEF HUBBS IN FULL GEAR, running in the 2007 Heroes to Hero event.
photo by B. Cleary
Hubbs, himself a Gloucester City fireman, also addressed the forthcoming layoff of eight City firemen. “I think it’s an incredible step backward,” he said. “What happened on July 4, 2002, was we had four men working at the fire department, and the city administration [wants] to go back to that same situation. We’re going out with the same staffing [of four men] the night that Tommy died, and it’s difficult to deal with this stuff. I don’t believe they’re making the cuts in the right areas.”
The race is intended to bring the communities of Gloucester City and Mt. Ephraim together following the tragic loss of firefighters Tom Stewart III, Jim Sylvester, and John West, Sr., during a fire in Gloucester City on July 4, 2002.
A 5k run was chosen over other possible events because the run literally brings the two communities together – runners start blocks from the Mt. Ephraim fire house and finish at the King Street fire house in Gloucester City. The race course is laid out so runners pass the former homes of Stewart, Sylvester, and West.
Congressman Robert Andrews remembered the fallen firefighters during a prerace ceremony in Mt. Ephraim. He said that while other countries have a problem keeping people in, America has a problem keeping people out due to the outstanding character of our nation, which is due to men like Stewart, Sylvester, and West.
Moucine Outaleb of Baltimore, Maryland, won the race with a time of 14:43.59, but did not beat the prior race record of 14:08. The highest finishing female was Jessa Stevens of Morrestown, NJ, with a time of 18:24.76, and the highest finisher from Gloucester City was Ryan Chiodi, who ran as a member of Gloucester City’s police department.
Brothers Matthew and Stephen Hand were the highest finishing firemen, placing seventh and eleventh, respectively, with youngest brother Kyle placing 16th overall.
Matthew and Stephen, both members of the Merion Fire Company of Ard-more, Pennsylvania, say that running and firefighting are all part of the family business and that the Heroes to Hero 5k is a great way to help our firemen stay in shape. “Our dad always ran and stayed in shape, so we got involved with it in our high school cross county teams,” Stephen Hand said. Matthew added, “We’re all third generation firemen. On a physical standpoint, a lot of firemen get themselves out of shape. It’s important to spread the message that everybody should be physically fit to do the job.”
News Correspondent Anthony Wojtkowiak finished 198th of 473 finishers in his first-ever 5k, completing the race in 27:21.11.