By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL
OBSERVER Staff Writer
On occasion you can drive down Central Avenue and see a couple holding hands as they walk near downtown Fredonia. It is rare to see more than 500 people holding hands, but that was the sight Saturday morning.
OBSERVER Photos by Samantha McDonnell
Top: More than 500 people held hands and completed the wave Saturday morning. The human chain stretched from Village Hall to the SUNY Fredonia President’s House on Central Avenue.
Above: Prior to the Patrick K. Coughlin Walk and Missing Links Community Connection, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held with walkers participating in the walk including representatives from the Missing Links Community Connection and the Coughlin family.
Walkers who participated in the Patrick K. Coughlin Walk also participated in the Missing Links Community Connection by holding hands along Central Avenue. Each walker who participated in the walk chose one of five routes. Each route had a different ending point on Central Avenue.
Last year, Coughlin helped out with Friends West Fest which drew over 800 people, RO Foundation co-founder Joe Russo said.
"This year we started planning again. (Coughlin) passed away in July before we got things going, that's when we added the walk," Russo said.
The Missing Links Community was going to be held for RO Foundation co-founder Maggie Owen's parents, the late Robert and Joan Link, who passed away of cancer. After Coughlin's passing, the decision was made to hold the two events together. Owens called the event "emotional" as the walkers held hands in front of Village Hall and went as far as the SUNY Fredonia President's House on Central Avenue.
"It was a great turnout for the first year. We can't complain," Russo said.
Owens said the number of people who came out was slightly lower than what the group had hoped for.
"We wanted 1,700 but we were just over 500," Owens said. "For a first year, it's a good turn out I think. Next year, we'll tweak it a little bit and it will get better."
Following the walk, participants were treated to a pizza party in Barker Common. Later in the afternoon, Friends West Fest took place at several local bars.
"The reason we call it Friends West Fest, it's like a community reunion. Everybody gets together and everybody knows (each other)," Russo said.
Bars participating in the Friends West Fest were located on West Main Street and included Ellicottville Brewing Company, BJ's, DeJohn's Spaghetti House, Coughlin's Pub and 41 West.
The RO Foundation has plans to make the Patrick K. Coughlin Walk/Missing Links Community Connection an annual thing.
"We look forward to next year and hope more people can join us," Owens said.
Proceeds will benefit the Bruce Magee family, the Don Stoyle family, Huntington disease awareness and the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. A scholarship will be started in Coughlin's name as well to be awarded to a senior hockey player. For more information on the RO Foundation, visit www.rofoundation.com.
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