RENO — Cynthia Vetter remembers lying on the floor of her husband’s hospital room, totally spent after going days without sleeping. Her husband, Randy, had been severely injured in the line of duty, and in his intensive care unit room, she was losing her way as he was losing his life.

“I was probably pretty close to being a patient in the hospital myself, and I was pretty devastated and sure I could not go on,” Vetter told about 60 people who braved the summer heat Saturday to participate in the second annual Adopt-a-Cop 5K in Reno. “I laid down on the floor in Randy’s ICU room, and I’m pretty sure I could’ve willed myself to die in that moment… Then Randy’s best friend Mike, who is also a police officer, walked in the room and said, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but you need to get up off that floor.’”

When her husband passed away, Vetter grappled with questions of identity.

“I was Randy’s wife, and then I was a widow, and those two facts — being a trooper’s wife and being widow — monopolized much of my identity,” she said. “It’s taken a lot of negotiating with myself to know who I am; I’m a good friend, I am loyal to a fault, I am passionate (and) I’m committed to teaching and learning.”

Since losing her husband, Vetter has become an outspoken advocate and activist for the police and their families. Her strength to carry on was found in her then 8-month-old son, Robert. In 2017, she helped start a nonprofit known as StarKids, which works to help the children of fallen law enforcement officers and other first responders like firefighters.

Eventually, Vetter’s love for teaching and learning compelled her to join law enforcement herself, and she now works as an education specialist for the Division of Public Safety.

On Saturday, she urged those in attendance to always try to find the strength to persevere.

“The message I’m going to leave you with is this: get up off the floor,” Vetter said. “I’m thriving, Robert is thriving and you are stronger than you think you are… It’s possible to heal, to love, to grieve and be happy.”

Saturday’s fundraiser brought in roughly $1,500 for local law enforcement, and it will go toward providing much-needed safety equipment, event coordinator Amanda Willows said.

Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley said Adopt-a-Cop has helped provide local officers with kevlar gloves, rifle-resistant vests, jump-out kits and more.

“I can’t say enough about the Adopt-a-Cop folks,” Hundley said. “All the equipment, all the support, doing stuff like this — when you have people put in time to do this stuff, it really means something… They put the money where their mouth is, and it’s great to have an organization like them.”

In the 5K, Paris police officer Rafael Ramirez finished with the top overall time, despite not being much of a runner before training for the race.

“I never really ran before, but I went to this event last year and didn’t do very well,” Ramirez said. “I trained for this all year, so I’m happy with my time.”

Runner Sydney Peralta, who finished with the top female time, is a much more experienced runner, having participated in several 5Ks and other races.

“I think it’s important for everyone to support law enforcement,” she said.

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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