By Julie Ross
A decade ago, Sgt. Richard Morales of the Mendham Police Department had the idea to create the Mendham Harvest Hustle 5k Run and Kids’ Fun Run to raise funds for the Mendham Borough Public Schools and was working with a planning committee of the Mendham Borough Home School Association (H.S.A.) to make
it a reality.
But on April 18, 2009, six months before the race was to take place, Morales passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. In October of that year, the H.S.A. held the race in Morales’ honor. It has become an annual event, and this year’s 10 th Annual Harvest Hustle, slated for Saturday, September 29, will once again be a tribute to its creator—with new twists.
“For the race’s 10-year anniversary, we want to not only have a road race, but have a tribute to Rich’s life with a fun, two- to three-hour party on a Saturday morning that will attract more runners as well as families from throughout the community,” said Steve McLaud, race director.
McLaud noted that this is extremely important because as Nancy Morales, Morales’ widow and a physical education teacher at Mendham’s Hillcrest School has pointed out, “the new wave of families may not be aware of who Rich was, what he stood for and his impact on the community. Rich would be touched by that, but he would be even more excited and happy to see community togetherness and engagement and an emphasis on physical fitness.”
The 10 th Annual Harvest Hustle USATF-NJ Grand Prix Harvest Hustle will kick off at Borough Park at 8:15 am with a Kids’ Fun Run and Walk to accommodate younger runners, followed by the main event, the 5K Run and Walk, at 9 a.m. The 5K course, which wends through Mendham, is USATF (USA Track & Field)- sanctioned and certified, and electronic timing will be provided. A pancake breakfast, sponsored by Hilltop School’s 8 th grade class, will be held beginning at 9a.m. to feed the Kids Fun Runners as well as the fans and families of those participating in the 5K race.
“We’ll also have some new additions to the race to remember Rich’s support of families, fun, and fitness,” McLaud noted. From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., an inflatable obstacle course provided by Child’s Play Challenge Courses will be available for use by “children of all ages” to test their agility, coordination, balance, speed, and endurance in a “fun and engaging race.”
Additionally, pace-setting for the lead runners will be offered by cyclists who participate in the annual police Unity Tour fundraiser, an event in which Morales participated for several years. The Unity Tour is intended to increase awareness of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, as well as to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum in Washington, D.C. Unity Tour members from police departments across New Jersey who
“remember Rich’s dedication, professionalism, and enthusiasm” will also be present at this year’s race.
McLaud said such dedication, professionalism, and enthusiasm was evident in the breadth of his activities and commitments to the Mendham community. The father of two sons and two daughters served as the Mendham school district’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for nearly 20 years, taught bike safety, and was a wrestling coach at Mt. Olive Junior High School. He also served as the Mendham Police Department’s liaison to Mendham High School, worked with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and frequently addressed youths about the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
Registration for the Kids’ Fun Run and Walk is $12; registration for the 5k Run and Walk is $25. The pancake breakfast and obstacle course are free. Funds raised from the Kids’ Fun Run and the 5k Run and Walk will be used for the benefit of the Mendham schools and the Sergeant Richard Morales Scholarship Fund.
To sign up, visit
By Julie Ross