by Leah Lowe – Charlestown, Ind. | Hundreds of runners, law enforcement officers, and supporters gathered in the rain today to participate in the inaugural Sgt. Bertram 5K-9 event at Charlestown High School. Of over 480 registrations received just prior to race day – 60 of them were dogs. The department aimed to keep the race dog-friendly in respect to race honoree Sgt. Ben Bertram of the Charlestown Police Department, their K-9 handler who lost his life in a crash while pursuing a suspect last December.
The race serves as a fundraiser to benefit plans to send Bertram’s family and fellow officers to Washington D.C. for the annual Police Week memorial services, where Ben will be honored alongside other fallen law enforcement officers from across the country.
Jason Broady of the Charlestown Police Department spearheaded the organization of the 5K-9 race, but credits their volunteers. “It was a big effort with lots of volunteers, it took all of us as well as the people who braved this nasty weather to make it a success.”
A mix of officers from various local police departments, individuals from local organizations and schools, the Bertram family, and City officials were on hand to do their part to keep the event running smoothly.
“The success of the Ben Bertram 5K-9 event represents another example of how Charlestown citizens rally to support our police officers in a time of need. People understand how Ben’s family and fellow officers want to participate in the very important national event at which fallen officers are honored.” Said John Spencer, Charlestown city spokesperson.
“The nearly 500 race registrants who paid to support the cause is very impressive. The fact that 200 people even turned out to run in very inclement weather is indicative of how supportive our community is when the need is there.”
Race participants knew the forecast was grim, but by 8:15 the parking lot for the 9:00 race was filling up, and the check-in line was so long despite the pouring rain that race officials had to push the start time back a bit to accommodate race-day registrants. If there is one thing that the community of Charlestown does well, its showing up.
Chris Graham, a local Paramedic with New Chapel EMS came out to support a lost colleague. While he’s not normally a fan of the rain, it’s part of the job he’s grown accustomed to. “It’s for a good cause – Ben was a good man. He really was a great officer.”
For another runner, Lindsey McDonald, this race was her first 5K – but very personal. McDonald has been producing decals for the last four months in memory of Sgt. Bertram to help raise funds for the family’s trip to Police Week.
“For me, running the race was another opportunity to help raise funds for CPD and the Bertram Family to help get them all to D.C.,” she says, “It was so important to me to show up, despite the weather, a small sacrifice to show my support to the department and the Bertram family. Ben and his family made the ultimate sacrifice, so showing them that we – as a community – are still here, we will always be here, and we’ve got your 6,” McDonald said. “Ben was a wonderful officer, and such a kind man, and he is, and always will be remembered as, a true hero. I will run this 5K every year as long as they hold it to recognize his sacrifice and keep his memory alive in this community.”
Support like this throughout the community is a common theme in Charlestown. Many of the business signs from Papa Johns to the local hardware store remain with the same “Thank you Sgt. Bertram” messages that they carried in December. Porch lights across town are still blue for Ben. This inaugural race will be the first of many, and propels the mission to send our fallen officers family and friends to Police Week. Few officers knew Ben and the nature of his work like his fellow K9 handlers.
“Ben Bertram was an amazing person, an outstanding Officer and an even better K9 handler. Ben set the bar extremely high as an Officer and the K-9 Division at the Charlestown Police Department,” says officer Adam Clark, a fellow K9 handler who now serves as a school resource officer at Charlestown Middle School.
“Ben was a staple of this community and we will never, ever, be able to replace his knowledge, dedication and passion for the profession and his K9 partners. Today…wow, words just can’t express the overwhelming support this city and its citizens have shown us at the department. Even as the weather was not the best, several hundred people, people we knew, we didn’t know and people we worked with came out to support us again. Not only did they support us but they were there for the family and friends of Ben. We couldn’t celebrate an amazing person any better, and can’t say thank you enough.”
Despite the sadness associated with such an event, the Bertram family remains grateful for the outpouring of community support. Lindsey Bertram-Wolff, sister of the late Sgt. Bertram, expressed her gratitude.
“Through our family tragedy we have learned how much Ben was loved, respected and truly missed by more than just our little inner circle. We have been comforted by countless stories of his silly sense of humor and his many acts of kindness for others in their time of need.” she said.
“We love our community! To see so many wonderful people come out in less than favorable conditions to support our blood & blue family today was something we will never forget! Thank you just is not a big enough word to express how deeply moved we are by everyone’s kindness.”
If you missed the opportunity to run in the race, you can still drop off a shirt order form for the next couple of weeks at the Charlestown Police Department. You can also donate directly to the Bertram family Police Week trip fund by dropping off donations in person at the Charlestown Police Department.
Check out race photos via our Facebook page and this SmugMug link.