Midtown Raleigh News

Race honors police officers for ‘how they lived’

When Melissa Hogan stands at the starting line for the Run For Our Heroes 5K, she will be wearing her hot pink running shoes, comfortable black shorts and an iPod. But her most important accessory will be on her wrist: a bracelet inscribed with the number 304, her Uncle Jimmy’s badge number with the Raleigh Police Department.

Hogan and more than 1,000 others will be walking and running April 28 to honor her uncle, James Allen, and the seven other Raleigh police officers killed serving the community. The event will raise money for a permanent memorial to remember their sacrifice.

Although Allen was killed in a car wreck while on duty in 1968 before Hogan was born, she grew up seeing photos and hearing stories about her uncle.

“There was always a presence of Uncle Jimmy. Holidays were great, but there was always something missing because he wasn’t there.,” said Hogan, 40, of Mebane. “Even though I didn’t know him, I saw the loss in my dad’s and granddad’s eyes, and I was robbed of having a relationship with my uncle.”

Hogan grew up in a family of law enforcement officers, and her husband recently retired from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Because she is an only child and Allen did not have children, Hogan wants to make sure his story and memory are carried on. “I am the last of the line. For as long as I am living, I want to make sure that Jimmy is not forgotten,” Hogan said.

She began running last year because she wanted to run in this race to help with the Raleigh Police Memorial efforts.

Raising money

Raleigh has a memorial for city employees, but not one dedicated to police officers who died in the line of duty. After realizing that many towns smaller than Raleigh had a police memorial, a group of retired and current police officers started the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation in 2009.

“It’s important for the officers’ families, current officers and our citizens to have a memorial to see the names of these eight officers. We want to remember, honor and respect that they gave the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of our city,” said Dennis Lane, president of the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation and a retired major with the Raleigh Police Department.

Originally, the Raleigh Police Memorial was planned for the proposed Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center. But because construction of the center has been delayed, the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation is now looking for alternate locations.

“We want the location to be accessible for people to visit and a fitting location for the purpose,” Lane said.

The foundation has consulted with several potential architects and is ready to move forward with the design process as soon as a location is identified.

Not just a race

Runners and walkers will be reminded throughout the event that this is not an ordinary run. During a short memorial service before the race at 8:30 a.m., each of the fallen officers’ names will be read and a wreath placed in their honor at Nash Square.

Many police officers from departments across the Triangle, including Raleigh, Garner, Cary and the Wake County Sherriff’s office, will be running alongside participants. At each turn in the course, runners will pass posters of the officers they are honoring.

The family-friendly event is also a certificated course for competitive runners. After the 5K, children can run in 100-yard Kids’ Dash with McGruff the Crime Dog. A post race social with free food for race participants and volunteers will also be held at Napper Tandy’s from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We honor the officers not because of how they died, but because of how they lived: protecting others,” Lane said. “Police officers are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and they are children – just like everyone else. They go to work every day not knowing what they will encounter and not knowing if they will come home.”