218 run to earn funds for Veterans Freedom Park

May 2, 2019

By Steve Landon
Correspondent

Members of the Michigan National Guard charge through the inflatable 
finish line after completing the 5K. Photos by Steve Landon

Sunny skies, normal April temperatures and the winds of spring greeted 218 plus runners and walkers on Saturday to Veterans Freedom Park in Harrison for the eighth annual Freedom 5K Run/Walk in memory of Spc. Robert Friese and all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation.

Spec. Robert Friese, a 2007 graduate from Harrison High School served his country as a proud member of the US ARMY. On April 29, 2011 he gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Iraq. Today his memory lives on thanks to several volunteers and runners who come together each year for the Freedom 5k Run/walk. Proceeds from the event benefit maintenance, operation and improvements to the park.

Robert’s mother, Cindy Friese was on hand once again for this year’s run helping and cheering on the runners.

“I feel very honored that my son has not been forgotten for giving his life for our freedoms.

Renee Haley former director of the Clare County Office of Veterans Affairs originally came up with the idea for the 5k in memory of Robert. Everyone who comes to the event comes for a reason and that is to honor all those we have lost, not only military. They come to honor and remember police, firefighters, first responders, and others. I think this year’s event was great, we even had firefighters walking and running in their gear”, Cindy said.
In addition to the run April 2019 will always hold special meaning for Cindy Friese. On April 26th a stretch of US 27 running from the south Harrison exit north through business route 27 to just south of the north U.S 27 expressway exit became officially known as the Spc. Robert Friese Memorial Highway in honor of her loving son.

While she is currently not living in Michigan Ms. Freise still makes it a point to come back whenever possible.

“I am working and living in Dover Delaware, my home is still in Harrison. I am out here with my daughter enjoying watching my granddaughters grow. My son Doug Friese is stationed in DC for two years so it also gives me the opportunity to be with his family. After 13 years I have both my son and daughter within two hours of each other. Life is short and you never know what life will bring you so I’m taking every day I can to be with my kids and grandchildren’, she said.

Prior to the start of the run members of the Harrison High School Band played U.S Military themes and the National Anthem. While a bit chilly most of the participants had no trouble making good time, in fact the wind out of the north, northwest may have helped improve runner’s times on portions of the course when it was at their backs.

One particular group of 5k runners and walkers from the Harrison Fire Department took part wearing their firefighting gear. Six members of the department walked and ran in memory of former Harrison and Clare Fire Department member Ethan Gage of Clare, who passed away in an industrial accident on February 4, 2019 at the age of 26. Harrison Fighter Reed Romanowski ran the race carrying the American Flag in full gear with an oxygen tank on his back, wearing a mask. He won the Male 20 – 24 class with a course time of 37:47.1.

Having won in 2018 Kevin Spicer – Torres of Clare decided to do it all over again. From his first step off the starting line to his last few steps at the finish line Spicer – Torres was in charge as he cruised to second straight overall victory in the Freedom 5K Run/Walk with a time of 18:06.7.

Sarah Ingram was the top overall female runner and 16th best overall finisher. She posted an impressive time of 26:11.9.

While Kevin Spicer – Torres made it back-to-back overall wins he was not the only past winner from the 2018 race to do it again. A number of past age group class winners scored their second straight Freedom 5K Run victory.



To check out additional results and times go to https://www.veteransfreedompark.com/2019-results/
In addition to knowing they ran and walked for a good cause finishers were handed dog tags from members of Girls on the Run after they crossed the finish line.

The Girl Scouts satisfied many runners sweet tooth by handing out 90 boxes of Girl Scout cookies for free to competitors.

“I am a leader from the Heart of Michigan Clare County Girl Scouts. We have collected donations of cookies for our “Hometown Hero’s” We like to donate for this event. Cindy Friese was once a Girl Scout leader in our area”, race volunteer Andrea McCrary explained!

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