It was a big day in East Hartford as more than 500 participants took to the streets for the annual Believe 208 5K Run for the Bravest and Finest.
The event, in its 7th year, celebrates and remembers East Hartford Officer Paul Buchanan, who struggled with depression and died by suicide in 2013.
"I just feel like he’s smiling from above and we’re doing his mission," said Trish Buchanan.
Trish is the wife of the late officer Paul Buchanan and founder of 208. As she commemorates the day, she reflects on the love of her life.
"He was very active. Loved to exercise and be outdoors running, was definitely one of his passions," said Trish. "I am so happy and so blessed to be able to do this not only in his memory but we also memorialize other first responders that have also lost their lives to suicide. And sadly, there’s no other memorial out there to them. So it’s important to recognize them."
The goal is to raise money and awareness for police officer mental health through Believe 208 and the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement.
"That was my hero and when he passed, I was just 23 and so it kind of killed me and I just use exercise to get back into it," said Jared Buchanan.
Jared was the top runner coming in first place in the race but he said this day is all about honoring his dad.
"Me and my mom took what he wrote down in the suicide note that said help others like me, make my death an issue so you can get help for other people like me. So we turned that into something positive and it’s been able to help a lot of people," said Jared.
One of those people has been Andrew Herzog, a veteran who describes what it’s like to maintain your mental health as a first responder.
"You don’t want to hide but you just don’t want to openly communicate to your family and especially your younger ones but it’s something we kind of bring home and I think it’s building up years over years and not talking about it truly builds that anxiety up," Herzog said.
"I think it’s where a lot of us comes from, it’s something we need to realize it’s okay to talk about it, it’s okay we have each other and resources available to us now," he continued.
And the real message Trish wants everyone to take away:
"We all struggle with trials but you have to have hope and you have to believe," said Trish.