Turlock Police Lt. Neil Cervenka is set to run a distance greater than a marathon in full-uniform on Saturday to honor the life and sacrifice of his friend Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh.
Cervenka has donned his uniform for long-distance runs in memory of fallen law enforcement before and was inspired to perform a similar tribute to Singh.
“Last year [Modesto Police] Det. Sean Dodge and I ran to the grave of every fallen Stanislaus law enforcement officer who was buried in Stanislaus County,” Cervenka said. “That was 45 miles. This year I wanted to do an Honor Run to remember my friend Ronil. I thought that running from where he died in Newman to where his name is engraved in stone at Lakewood would be a good way. Also, the route is 28.2 miles and his badge number was 282.”
Singh was born in Fili and immigrated to the United States. He started his law enforcement career as a volunteer with the Modesto Police Department and then served as a cadet and animal service officer with the Turlock Police Department. He worked in Turlock from 2006 to 2010, and then joined the Merced County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy in 2010. He started work at the Newman Police Department in 2011. Singh was killed during a traffic stop on Dec. 26, 2018. He was 33 years old and was survived by numerous family members, including his wife and 5-month-old son.
It was during Singh’s time in Turlock that he and Cervenka first met and formed a friendship.
“He sought me out as a mentor to help fulfill his dream of being a police officer,” Cervenka said. “We talked throughout the years even when he went to other agencies. He called me for advice a couple of weeks before he was killed.”
The choice to run the entire distance in full-uniform, which includes the Kevlar vest, boots and duty belt and adds about 25 more pounds, is done to reflect the pain felt by the families who have lost their loved one.
Joining Cervenka for the entire run will be Anita Finner, who retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and also will be in full uniform. Other individuals will be joining the pair along the route.
Cervenka is not collecting funds for this Honor Run, however, anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by giving to the Peace Officer Memorial Group of Stanislaus County, “who ensures fallen officers are not forgotten and their surviving families are taken care of,” Cervenka said.
“They are sponsoring this run,” he said.
For Cervenka this run is not about the distance or donations, but rather the friend and colleague he lost.
“It will be one year since Ron sacrificed his life for the community and country he not only loved, but chose,” Cervenka said. “I want everyone to remember that and remember Ronil Singh for the incredible person he was.”
The run is set to start at 7:17 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Merced Street and Eucalyptus Avenue. The run will wind a path that is set to end around 1 p.m. at Lakewood Memorial at 900 Santa Fe Ave. Anyone wishing to complete the final 10K with the runners, can meet them at the intersection of Keyes Road and N. Golden State Boulevard.