WALLINGFORD — Trading ice skates for running shoes, children from the Wallingford Hawks Youth Hockey Association raced in the Kiwanis Turkey Trot Sunday morning to support longtime coach Scott DeFilio, who is being treated for brain cancer.
“To see everyone come together like this — I know it made Scott very happy,” said Gina DeFilio, Scott’s wife.
Scott DeFilio joined the approximately 60 runners in “#teamdefilio” shirts, pushed in his wheelchair by the hockey association’s president, David Fritz.
“It’s very heartwarming. My family and friends have been a huge support system over the past year,” Gina DeFilio said.
Scott DeFilio was first diagnosed and treated for brain cancer five years ago and the disease returned a year ago. While he’s not coaching, he continues to attend games.
“We just said do whatever you can, cheer, walk, run...just to show them that we’re behind them,” said Shelley Chordas, who helped get people who wanted to support DeFilio registered in the race. Children on the team, parents and members of the Sheehan and Lyman Hall hockey teams joined the race.
“We just want them to know they’re not alone, they’ll never be alone,” Chordas said.
The outpouring for DeFilio fits right in with the Kiwanis Club’s mission, Chordas said, noting that race coordinator Cindy Semrau was invaluable in putting it all together.
The race is an important event for the club. Along with the annual peanut sale in June, this is the largest annual fundraiser. The proceeds are distributed to various Kiwanis projects and to outside charities.
“All of the money we raise goes back into the community,” Semrau said.
Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, 17 turkeys were also raffled during the awards ceremony.
The race has been expanding in recent years, this was the first trot with a walking portion and last year was the first to include the 5K, which now has around as many participants as the 5-mile race.
Semrau estimated around 200 people participated. Runners started and ended at E.C. Stevens Elementary School.
Wallingford resident Walter Schwarz, who narrowly came in first place, said the race was friendlier and more community-oriented by nature of its small size.
“I really like seeing that sense of community you don’t get in larger towns,” he said.
As he neared the finish line, he didn’t realize just a few meters behind him Anna Hladky, also of Wallingford, was closing in on him. “Then I had this burst of speed I didn’t realize I had,” he said.
“It’s always exciting to cross the finish line and try to beat your best,” Hladky said.
She ran alongside her 8-year-old daughter, Maybeline Hladky, who caught up with her mother a few minutes after she crossed the finish line.
“I’m proud to be raising an athlete...it builds confidence,” she said.