Supporters packed into Kelly’s Logan House with approximately 1,000 people participating in the “Community 5k for Officer Justin Wilkers” on Sunday.
The family-friendly event was organized to show support for Wilkers, a three-year veteran of the Wilmington Police Department, who was shot in the face during a traffic stop turned chase in the Southbridgeneighborhood on February 3. It included face painting, temporary tattoos and a silent auction featuring gift cards and baskets from local businesses.
“I think it’s great that this amount of people chose this type of support that they are giving here, I couldn’t ask for more,” said WPD employee and co-organizer Kimberly Pfaff. “They exceeded my expectations big time.”
In addition to registration costs, guest bartenders including local police officers, fire fighters and members of the Attorney General’s office will donate the tips acquired during the event directly to the family to alleviate Wilkers’ medical bills and medications. The event raised about $25,000.
Wilkers’ wife Julie participated in the race and said she was extremely grateful for the turnout and excited that they were not only able to pull the event off in a short period of time, but that it was something also near and dear to her heart because she is in the running community.
“Seeing the support and seeing the way that the community has come together for our family is absolutely amazing,” said Julie. “We are very blessed and I feel very honored to be a part of the police department family.”
She said her husband will undergo surgery to repair his ear canal and to have the bullet removed from his skull on March 4. The proceeds will help the family with increased child care needs and the loss of income the family has to deal with while Julie Wilkers takes time from her job to care for her husband.
Krista Carlozzi who is currently in school to be a police officer was in attendance with her three children and applauded the way Wilkers is handling the tough situation.
“Getting involved in gun fights and the possibility of being shot is part of the job,” said Carlozzi. “It’s something that all of us have to face at one point or another and the way that Officer Wilkers has handled it … he is a true hero to the entire community.”
For Kathleen Dickerson, a mother of a police officer, absence wasn’t an option. She recalled hearing the news and thinking about the terrible way Wilkers was shot stating the suspect “meant to kill.”
“I know if it was my son, I would want anyone that could walk to walk,” said Dickerson. “I thank God that he is alive.”