Savannah Conrad, 18, a senior at Hamilton High School, never met Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman.
But she knows Wolterman, and all firefighters and police officers put their lives on the line every day to protect the residents they serve. So Conrad braved the cold temperatures and drizzle Saturday morning to run in the inaugural Party Run Walk for 86, a fundraiser in honor of Wolterman, 28, who was killed Dec. 28, 2015 in the line of duty.
“This is the right thing to do for what he did for us,” Conrad said after finishing the 5K in 27 minutes, one of the fastest female times. “The sacrifices he and others make are incredible.”
More than 800 runners and walkers — some pushing strollers, others walking dogs — participated in the fundraiser that was organized by Wolterman’s widow, Bre Wolterman and seven Hamilton firefighter wives.
Proceeds from the event will offset the expenses of sending Hamilton firefighters, the department’s Honor Guard and Bre Wolterman to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Maryland and the International Association of Firefighters Memorial in Colorado, said Tony Harris, president of the Hamilton Fire Fighters Local 20.
The Woltermans were only married for about seven months before he was killed in an arson fire on Prater Avenue. His death was ruled a homicide by the Butler County Coroner’s Office and the investigation is continuing.
Bre Wolterman called the support of the firefighters and the entire Butler County community “incredible” and she thanked the wives for organizing the event in four months.
Another firefighter wife, Jane Abney, added: “Words can’t describe this.”
Then she found a word: “Overwhelming.”
They hope to hold a similar event every year, she said.
As the crowd lined up, Wolterman and fellow firefighter wives took the first 86 steps — in honor of Patrick Wolterman’s badge number — then clapped as the runners and walkers passed.
The 5K was a family affair for the Smallwoods from West Chester. B.J. Smallwood, his wife, Liz, and their two children, Charley, 4, and Oliver, 2, said they wanted to honor the fallen firefighter.
“It’s important to bring awareness and keep him in our memory,” said Liz Smallwood, who worked with Patrick Wolterman’s sister.
Harris called the event “a great way to honor Patrick, a special day for all of us to be together.”
On the day of the fatal fire, firefighters from Station 25 watched a movie together, then went to bed unaware they were about to go on the “worst run of their life,” Harris said.
Then he added: “The fact that they are there one minute and gone the next makes it a real hard thing.”