By Christopher Roberson
Despite being pelted by a cold rain, more than 100 runners still came out to Centennial Park to participate in the fourth annual Peabody Holiday Torch Run, which benefits Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Stephen Huftalen, vice president of Corporate Development and Special Events at Special Olympics Massachusetts, said the Peabody Torch Run has raised $200,000 for Special Olympics athletes since it began in 2014. He said the event is part of the larger Law Enforcement Torch Run, which is “on pace” to reach $600,000 in fundraising efforts by the end of the year.
“The Torch Run is community fundraising at its best, I love the community-building,” Huftalen said during the Dec. 2 race, adding that the event has “grown tremendously,” and “Peabody Police have really taken leadership.”
As for the race itself, first place went to John Ayers, 52, of Hamilton, who finished with a time of 17 minutes, 52 seconds. Thomas Williamson, 32, of Gloucester, took second place with a time of 19 minutes, four seconds. Ayers also won the Peabody for Peace 5K on Oct. 6, trouncing second place finisher John Doyle of Lynn by three minutes, 56 seconds.
For the second year, Ashley Cook, 24, of Groveland, had the best women’s time, completing the course in 21 minutes, 26 seconds and finishing in fourth place overall.
Christopher Rollins, 25, recorded the best time for Peabody, finishing in 22 minutes, 38 seconds to take sixth place overall.
Completing the course in 22 minutes, 46 seconds, Officer Sean Dowd of the Peabody Police Department had the top time of the eight police runners and took seventh place overall. Other police runners included Middleton Sgt. Robert Currier, Peabody Lt. William Cook, Middleton Officer Thomas McParland as well as Justin Engdahl, Matthew Greeley and Richard Melanson, campus police officers at Endicott College in Beverly.
Jay Carlo, 42, of Gloucester, had the top individual fundraising total with $2,002. The Nashoba Shooting Stars Alpine Ski Team had the top team total with $14,559.
Melissa McCarthy, 29, of Marblehead, said this was her second year competing in the Torch Run and she was not bothered by the adverse weather conditions. “Once I started going, the rain didn’t matter,” she said.
Lenny Desmarais, 56, deputy chief of the Lynn Police Department, said he ran with the Danvers Police Academy, where his son Michael is a recruit. “It was a great time,” he said.
Despite his eighth-place finish, Sgt. Michael Backstrom, 41, of the Beverly Police Department, said the weather caught up with him during the final leg of the race. “The last mile was really tough because of the wind and rain,” he said.