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Road race to honor fallen firefighters

Date: 6/11/2015

LONGMEADOW – Two local businesses are stepping up and hoping the public steps out to help the families of fallen firefighters.

The Western Massachusetts Firehouse 5K, sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports of Longmeadow and Urban Strength in Springfield, will take place June 20, with proceeds going to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF).

The 5K road race is the brainchild of Heather Samuelson, a part-time employee at Fleet Feet and co-founder and strength coach as Urban Strength, an organization that provided tactical fitness training for first responders and military personnel. Currently the Urban Strength team is working with members of the Springfield Fire Department’s new class of recruits on strength and conditioning.

Samuelson is graduate of Springfield College, as are her Urban Strength teammates Scott Provost and Lucas Rosa, and during her final semester, she said she acquired a greater appreciation for the work of public safety personnel.

“As part of my last semester, I did an internship at the Connecticut Fire Academy and I got the close-up experience of being a firefighter. I got to be a part of live burns, ladder bailouts and everything else they do,” she said. “It really drove home for me that these individuals sacrifice a whole lot.

“It blew me away,” she added. “To watch a movie about what they do does not do the job justice. It take so much heart and determination and they don’t get the credit they deserve.”

Tim Murphy of Fleet Feet explained his company has been attempting to do more public outreach and community service – including another run and walk to support the Baystate Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on June 13 at 2 p.m. – and he was enthusiastic about the idea of supporting NFFF when it was suggested by Samuelson.

“It’s a nonprofit whose mission is fire safety and supporting the families or those who lost their life in the line of duty while working on safety for existing firefighters,” Murphy said. “When Heather suggested it, it sounded like a great cause and so we called [NFFF] up and got their blessing.”

Samuelson said public service is a focus of the Urban Strength team, which, in addition to training public safety personnel, hopes to establish itself as a nonprofit organization offering strength and conditioning programs for inner-city youth.

“Unfortunately many [firefighters] don’t make it home, so this is a way for us to give back, support the families of the fallen and honor the guys still doing the job,” she said.

With minimal expense and supportive sponsors and Fleet Feet employees administering and timing the race, Murphy added most, if not all of the $25 registration fees would go directly to the NFFF.

Murphy said it was difficult to pinpoint an expected number of participants because race day registrations can vary.

“We threw this together pretty quickly – it was about five months ago – so I would think in the next week or so and on race day we could have a lot of people register,” he said.

With that said, he added the race has generated a good response so far, which could be attributed to strong community ties.

“Western Massachusetts has such a great running community and Longmeadow is a very, very active community, and an active community that supports good causes,” he said. “We’ve also had help from local fire departments, which have done a great job spreading the word.”

The race is set for 9 a.m. at Fleet Feet Sports in the Longmeadow Shops, 680 Bliss Road with a course that will run past the Longmeadow Fire Department. Register online at