Everyone in the Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, community always looks forward to the third Sunday in September every autumn.
For 31 years prior to this year, Xaverian hosted its annual P.O. Christopher Hoban Memorial 5-Mile Run. This year, the Xaverian faithful still celebrated Police Officer Hoban’s life, just in a different way due to COVID-19.
The race went virtual on Sept. 20, allowing more than 400 runners to participate in the tradition wherever they were located. Runners from all over New York City and as far as Pennsylvania took photos or short videos of themselves on race day to show their support.
“There are people that have been doing this run for years and didn’t want to miss it,” said Frank Morrisey, chairman of the Hoban Run Committee and a teacher at Xaverian. “It was different, but it was special. People still took the time out on their Sunday to run. It was pretty touching that we were able to keep it alive.”
Police Officer Hoban, a 1980 graduate of Xaverian, was so dedicated to his job that it cost him his life, which he sacrificed for the safety of others. The race celebrates Hoban’s sacrifice, when on Oct. 18, 1988, the 26-year-old officer was killed in the line of duty during an undercover narcotics operation buy-and-bust.
His cover was blown when he refused to sample cocaine that he was attempting to buy from three men in an apartment on West 105th Street. At that time, an NYPD policy prohibited the sampling of drugs unless an officer’s life was in danger. He was fatally shot that night.
A year later, the Police Alumni of Xaverian established the race to remember Hoban, who also attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help parochial school, Sunset Park. The race now serves as the primary fundraiser for the Hoban Scholarship, a fund organized by Xaverian’s Police Alumni that provides tuition assistance to sons and daughters of NYPD officers to attend the school. This year’s virtual race raised more than $40,000.
The planning process for this year’s race began months ago during the height of the pandemic. The race committee agreed that while the run could not take place in person due to social distancing considerations, a virtual race would be held instead.
“We didn’t know how it would be and how it would turn out,” said Martin Hoban, Christopher’s younger brother and a 1984 Xaverian graduate.
After much planning, the virtual race went off smoothly. At 7 a.m. that morning, Martin saw a runner on Third Avenue wearing the gray Hoban Run T-shirt. He took that as a sign from his brother Chris that everything would go well that day.
“I believe that it really kept the tradition going,” Martin said. “We probably touched more people than we normally would because of the electronic format. The outpouring of support was enormous.
“It definitely was different, but the zest in which people remember my brother is just beyond words. I’m very happy with the way it worked out, all things considered.”
To keep with the theme of sacrifice, the Hoban Run Committee included a “Thank You” message to all first responders and essential workers on the back of the run T-shirts. In an inspiring show of selflessness, these workers — a number of whom are graduates of Xaverian — have sacrificed their own safety for months to protect others from COVID-19.
“There were so many lives lost throughout the coronavirus pandemic that we wanted to ensure that Chris’ memory and the run in honor of Chris paid tribute to the front-line and essential workers and first responders who put their lives on the line each and every day to serve and protect,” said Robert Oliva, member of the Hoban Run Committee as well as the director of recruitment in the Office of Admissions at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights.
Sure, everyone missed the in-person camaraderie of the opening ceremonies, the race itself and of course the post-race party at Xaverian, but all of that will return in due time. What’s most important is that despite what’s going on in the world, everyone was there in spirit to honor the memory of a fallen hero while paying tribute to a new crop of health care heroes.
A September tradition in Bay Ridge stood tall in the face of a pandemic.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.