On Wednesday at 7 a.m., students at the New Haven Police Academy and the New Haven Firefighters Academy began their usual morning run with a special twist. Instead of running back to their respective schools, they finished at the Emergency Management Services Shelter.
Escorted by both police and fire vehicles, students and recruits at both academies delivered and collected food for about two hours Wednesday to donate to the local shelter. Runners began at 7 a.m. sharp from the New Haven Police Department headquarters at One Union Avenue and ran one mile to the Emergency Services Shelter on Grand Avenue.
At the shelter, executive director Westly Thorpe, Sr., and caseworker John Thomas were on hand to accept the donations brought by the police and fire vehicles and later delivered by the academy students.
There has always been a rivalry between the students of the police academy and the fire academy. In the past, police recruits often dropped off potatoes at the fire station. In return, the fire academy students would run and drop off donuts and coffee. This year, New Haven Police Academy physical training instructor Rob Strickland said he wanted to do something that would both fuel the rivalry and give back to the community.
“Our academies have hade a tradition of friendly competition for years, and this run will be the first in a series which uses that competition to directly benefit the community,” Strickland said. “We thought we would do something together but include the community.”
Strickland explained that although this event was supposed to be a rivalry race between the policeman and firefighters it was in reality more of a team effort.
“It was a competition, but we wanted to show that the two agencies came together across the finish line because we share a common goal of helping the community,” he said.
Each academy student went out and bought non-perishable food items to contribute to the shelter. The recruits were able to bring in such a large amount of food that multiple vehicles were required to cart all of it to the shelter Wednesday morning. Thorpe was glad to accept the donations and thanked the Police Academy for coming up with the idea for the food drive.
“I thought it was a terrific idea that the police academy brought forward. I am not certain the exact amount of food, but I know it was a lot — at least $300 or $400 worth,” Thorpe said.
The run was also well-received by all the participants — local police and firefighters.
“It was a great day to go out and help the local community for about 27 police academy students and 37 firefighters.” Police Academy recruit Jason Weted said.
But the run was also a competition, and In the end, the police officers proved to be the fleetest of foot, having logged over 200 miles in their past 22 weeks of training.