BYRON CENTER, Mich. — A Byron Center man is combining his love for running and law enforcement this weekend, as he will be running in the River Bank Run this weekend (Saturday, Oct. 23) to honor those who have died in the line of duty.
“It honestly just motivates me, it humbles me, and it just really inspires me.”
For the last 11 years, Matt Garbarino has been a reserve deputy with the Kent County Sheriff's Office.
Since 2015, the extreme athlete has been running with a purpose: to remember fallen officers and deputies.
"To just raise awareness and to say, hey, my, my special, somebody is not forgotten," Garbarino said on who he runs for.
Already completing three River Bank Runs and two statewide treks, Garbarino's message has been spread more than 1,000 miles.
But now, his tradition has a twist. For the first time, he'll be running in full deputy gear.
“There will be challenges presented to me, but in comparison to what I’m trying to do it for, it’s minimal," Garbarino said.
This year, his purpose hits close to home.
He's running for two officers who died in the line of duty in August: Sergeant Ryan Proxmire from the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office and Axel, a K-9 officer with the Kent County Sheriff's Office.
"I added Sergeant Proxmire and canine Axel right here as this last row onto my flag this morning."
The names of the fallen are on a flag that Garbarino holds high on these runs, one that also bears the names of the 57 men, women and K-9 officers who have died in the line of duty.
While they are no longer with us, Garbarino feels he won't be running alone.
"I got my friends running with me, they inspire me in ways that probably people don't know I don't always share that publicly," Garbarino said. "But you know, there's all these internal conversations you have with yourself, when you're struggling yourself. And there's a lot of my head when I think about all these individuals, and I'm very thankful I'm very appreciative that their families are allowing me to do that."
You can catch Garbarino in full uniform carrying his blue line flag on Saturday, along with all the other River Bank Runners.
The race starts at 9:30 a.m.