Hundreds of runners and walkers took part in the first “Andrew’s...

Hundreds of runners and walkers took part in the first “Andrew’s Top Gun Run 5K” charity race on Saturday at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. The race, sponsored by the Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts of America and the Andrew McMorris Foundation, raised money for scholarships and scouterships. Credit: Newsday/Jean-Paul Salamanca

Hundreds ran and walked Saturday in Riverhead to raise money for scholarships and scouting, and remember a Wading River Boy Scout who was killed by a drunken driver in 2018.

With local and state officials in attendance, more than 1,000 people turned out at the Enterprise Park at Calverton for the first “Andrew’s Top Gun Run 5K” charity race that had about 850 registered runners, according to organizers.

The event paid tribute to Andrew McMorris, a member of Boy Scout Troop 161 and an airplane enthusiast, who died after a drunken driver crashed into him and three other Scouts while they were on a 20-mile hike on Sept. 30, 2018, in Manorville. The other three Scouts survived.

Erik Kucera, 17, of Mount Sinai, who placed second in the age 15-19 bracket, was all smiles as he celebrated with family and friends.

“I feel pretty good now, but by the end of the race, I was tired,” Kucera said. A current Life Scout working toward his Eagle Scout rank, Kucera said he liked how the festivities honored 12-year-old Andrew. “It felt like we were celebrating his life,” Kucera said.

 His father, Matt Kucera, 60, an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 1776 in Mount Sinai, said they were familiar with Andrew’s troop because of the crash.

“We’ve hiked on roadways with boys. We’ve been in that exact situation where it’s dangerous to be on the roadway with cars going by, so when that incident happened, it really hit us hard because we understood what they must have gone through,” Matt Kucera said. 

Proceeds from the run, sponsored by the Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts of America and the Andrew McMorris Foundation, will benefit scholarships and scouterships. The inaugural run is estimated to have raised more than $50,000, according to Donna Lillie, one of the organizers.

Winners display the medals they earned in the "Andrew’s Top...

Winners display the medals they earned in the "Andrew’s Top Gun Run 5K" held at Enterprise Park in Calverton on Saturday. Clockwise from lower left are Nick Martella, Alicia Bartosik, Nico Nazal and Aubrey Alvino, Thomas Higgins and Arianna McMorris The run, which raises funds for scholarships and scouting, honors 12-year-old Boy Scout Andrew McMorris who was killed by a drunken driver while hiking in 2018. Credit: John Roca

Sarah DiFalco, 36, of East Quogue, who finished third in the age 35-39 bracket, said her son Jonah Staab, 15, is a former Boy Scout who is just a few years older than Andrew, whose death affected her deeply.

“They were the same age, so it was hard to hear about that. But we’re here to support and just be here for the family and try to raise awareness,” DiFalco said. This was her first 5K event, she said, and she was surprised and happy with her performance.

Speaking to the crowd after the race, Andrew’s parents, Alisa and John McMorris, thanked everyone who came out to run. John McMorris, who ran in the race, said their minds were blown by the number of people who came out to support the cause.

“This path we’re on, it was not one expected, but we’re thankful that we can do this with you. Because grieving is something you can’t do alone. So we grieve together, but we grieve together in action,” John McMorris said. “We’re putting our pain into purpose, and thank each and every one of you for helping us do that.”

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