Some Wilton High School stars on the court and on the field soon will be channeling their time and talents to benefit the stars of law enforcement and public safety. The Wilton High School Basketball and Track & Field programs and their coaches are planning the Inaugural Sneakers & Sirens 5K Run/Walk, to benefit the Wilton police, firefighters and EMTs.

The 5K will take place on Sunday, Nov. 5, and as WHS Girls’ Basketball head coach Rob Coloney says, is meant “to benefit the brave men and women who serve and protect our fine community, and to support and thank those individuals who keep Wilton the beautiful, safe and friendly town that it is.”

Coloney was inspired to put the effort together with Boys’ Basketball head coach Joel Geriak and the Track & Field coach Jim Gerweck, as he looked back on his own experience playing basketball as a kid.

“Thinking about what more we could do for the community, I was talking with my dad about when I grew up and played youth sports and got to the high school level. A lot of our coaches were police officers, fire fighters and EMTs. We didn’t have a sponsored basketball association, like Wilton has the Wilton Basketball Association–we had a Police Athletic League, it was a PAL. Everything was run through law enforcement,” he recalls.

Those experiences instilled in Coloney a respect for uniformed people who serve the community–something he says has been in shorter supply.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back now, there’s not as much engagement between youth and law enforcement from my perspective as there was when I was growing up. I think it’s part of that disconnect that people mostly hear negative news about law enforcement–and my experience was so different. I got to talking with Joel and Jim, and I said, ‘We should do something that’s us, something we could make our baby and establish in the town, not only a nice cohesion between those organizations and the high school program, but for the town to continue to see our programs, which are not always at the forefront, when you’ve got field hockey and lacrosse and football.”

One of the main motivations for the idea, Coloney says, is to express gratitude for everything the first responders do for the community.

“Wilton is continuously ranked amongst one of the safest towns not only in the state, but in the country. When you’re always ranked that high, that success is not accidental–there are people working really, really hard to maintain that. When we hear so much negativity around the country, it’s really comforting to understand that they’re not the bad guys, they’re there to keep us safe and keep the town that everybody loves so much so special,” says Coloney, adding, “It’s a really unique opportunity for the town to come together and share their support of what makes the town so great–you don’t have a safe town without these people.”

That hard work shown by the town’s first responders, Coloney says, is something he wants the athletes to learn from and emulate.

“That shows our student athletes that your own success should not be accidental, you have to work hard at it, on the court, on the field, what have you.”

Along those lines, the coaches agree that the kids will be active participants in the event, helping with the logistics as well as the preparation.

“We’ll ask the athletes to spread the word, and get as many of their classmates and peers involved as possible. Come race day I want them to be present–they’ll be there for set up, race day registration and check in. And I want the athletes to participate, just like I hope law enforcement will participate. I want them to run together, and be a nice movement. I want them to enjoy the event as well,” Coloney says.

The effort in planning and putting the event together will put the student athletes in closer contact with the officers and hopefully let them see a side of public safety and commitment that they may not have seen in the past.

“The police are not out to get you; they want to make sure you’re learning valuable lessons and you’re making good decisions and you’re being safe. By putting something on like this where you’re not so afraid to approach a police officer, you’re not so worried every time you see one, it becomes more of a community feeling. I know the adults in the town have that, but to establish that for the young men and women, it’s just so positive.”

The event will also be one way the high school athletic programs can give something to the wider community as well, and have the high school reflected in a positive way. The 5K course will begin and end at the high school–in fact the finish will be inside the Zeoli Field House, at center court.

“To have this event, to run it, to begin it and end it at the high school; for the Basketball programs to be able to do this before the season kicks off, to devote some time to it; for the Track & Field program to be able to do it in between cross country and the indoor season–it was such a great marriage in terms of the timing and being able to use the high school facility. There’s plenty of parking, and bathrooms inside, so from a logistical standpoint getting it going and making it an inaugural thing, there were a lot of positives,” Coloney says.

Speaking of positives, as proponents of GOOD news, we couldn’t help but agree with one of the reasons Coloney wanted the event to happen:

“In a day and age where so much news is negative, to make a little good is the whole point,” he says. “Hopefully it’s going to be a great event, not just for this year but for years to come.”

The event will start at 9 a.m., and participants can either run or walk. There will be awards for top finishers and all participants will receive a free t-shirt. Coloney says that he hopes to find someone willing to donate post-race food, water and coffee, and they plan to stream the New York City Marathon (which runs the same day) in the Field House for anyone who lingers afterwards.

Interested participants can register for the 5K online. Pre-registration is $30 per person, $25 for students/police/fire/EMT. Race-day registration is $35 per person, and $30 for students/police/fire/EMT. All proceeds will be donated to the philanthropic agencies associated with the first responders (i.e. Police Benevolent Association, Wilton Firefighters – Local 2233, and WVAC).

Anyone interested in making donations, or who may want to participate as a sponsor can contact Coloney via email. More information also is available on the Wilton Basketball Association website.