Reserve deputy set to run across state to honor fallen officers

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A reserve deputy from Kent County is continuing his mission to honor fallen officers by running across the state of Michigan.

Matt Garbarino raised thousands last summer when he completed a 160-mile run from Pontiac to West Olive.

This summer, he is back at it with a new route, and a new way to honor the friends he’s made along the way.

“This year’s really about a similar journey as last year,” he said. “The chance to continue the message of raising awareness for fallen police officers.”

This summer, he will travel through Detroit and Ypsilanti on the east side of the state through Jackson and finish up in southwest Michigan.

“I didn’t really think at 50 years old I’d be running across the state of Michigan with a flag, yet I was able to accomplish that,” Garbarino said.

The thin blue line flag Garbarino carried for each mile last year is now covered with names and end of watch dates of fallen officers, signed by their families he met along the way.

He says those connections are the most important part of the journey.

“Really the biggest goal for me is to have the engagement with the community, to raise awareness about ‘what does the thin blue line flag represent, what does law enforcement represent?’” Garbarino said. “That these are moms, dads, brothers and sisters. These are people in our community, they are not strangers, they are people that are there, people that are invested in our community.”

His run also raises money for the families that are left behind. Last year, he donated more than $8,600 to nonprofit mi-cops.

While he would love to surpass that total this year, he is staying focused on his main message.

“It’s to honor those sacrifices. Because every day that somebody goes out on road patrol and does their job, there is the risk that they may not go home — and they know that,” Garbarino said.

With another 160 miles still ahead of him, Garbarino says he’s up to the challenge and hopes the challenge will prove age really is just a number.

“I think sometimes we’re our own limiting factor. We think we can’t do something, because of our age or because someone else told us that. but the reality is, we control our own destiny and we can do what we want to do if we really set our mind to it,” he said.

This year’s run is set to start on June 7 in Detroit and end June 10 in Saint Joseph.

Anyone interested in donating to Garbarino’s cause can do so on his website or GoFundMe.

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