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Wells to run 36 miles in honor of Ambrose's years of service

Date: 12/10/2012

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM — If you ask Wilbraham resident Bill Wells, Springfield Police Officer Kevin Ambrose was as good a man as you could find.

Wells, who had been a neighbor of the Ambrose family at one point, spoke fondly of his sense of humor and way with people.

"Kevin was an absolute great guy. He was fun to be around and was the funniest guy I ever met, no question," he said. "When we would have our neighborhood Christmas parties, I made sure I was always near Kevin because I always knew I was going to have a very fun evening.

"He was just so easy to like. Kevin was just the kind of guy you wanted to be around. No matter what he was involved with, he had such a positive effect, whether it was on the job, coaching or in the neighborhood," he continued.

While his good humor and caring nature were evident, one thing specifically about Ambrose stood out in Wells' mind — his fierce love for his only grandchild, Victoria, who is now 4 years-old.

"He was an exceptional grandfather," Wells said. "Kevin was basically like a big kid."

In honor of Ambrose, who lost his life on June 4, 2012 when he was shot while responding to a domestic violence situation at the Lawton Arms Apartments on Lawton Street in Springfield, and in an effort to raise money for Victoria's college fund, Wells will run 36 miles on Dec. 15, symbolizing Ambrose's 36 years of service with the Springfield Police Department.

Wells explained that he hoped the timing of his run would help bring some solace to the family during what figures to be a difficult holiday season — the Ambrose family's first without Kevin.

"I could never imagine going through what the family is going through," he said. "Especially with Christmas coming, I thought it would be nice to do something for the family and maybe it would take the edge off a little bit. They have got to be going through some dark days that no one else could possibly imagine."

Starting his journey with the rest of the runners who will brave the cold for the Seth's Fat Ass 50K (31 miles), slated to start at Forest Park at 8 a.m., Wells, 44, will continue past the finish line and run an additional five miles to complete his tribute to Ambrose.

"It's going to take me about six hours," he said. "It's 10 more miles [than a marathon] and it's a tough 10. There is nothing natural about running for six hours."

Wells said that it took exhaustive training to get to the point where he could complete the 36 miles, including running the Holyoke and Hartford, Conn., marathons.

He added that on the final mile, which will be on Sumner Avenue, he would carry a flag adorned with Ambrose's No. 7 badge.

Wells, who ran a 50K in an effort to raise $50,000 for Celia LaBarbera, a 7-year-old girl from Wilbraham battling neurofibromatosis 2, a type of cancer that currently has no cure, had planned to run for another cause in this year's race and when the Ambrose family was beset by tragedy, he knew exactly how he wanted to help.

"I was kicking around an idea about doing another fundraiser and had an idea, but then when Kevin got killed, I just really wanted to do something for the family," he said.

The venue for the run holds significance as well, Wells said.

"Me running at Forest Park means a lot to the Ambrose family because Forest Park carries great meaning to them," he said. "Kevin played ball there as a kid, coached his son [Kyle] there and as a grandparent, he would take his granddaughter there to watch the ducks and to go to the zoo."

In addition to intense training and the thoughts of the Ambrose family in his mind, Wells said there was one more thing that would keep him going.

"Thank God for my iPod," he said with a smile. "I don't think I'd be able to do this without it."

Those interested in supporting Wells' cause can make donations to the Victoria Ambrose Educational Fund and mail them to the Greater Springfield Credit Union, 1030 Wilbraham Road, Springfield, MA 01109.