Olivia Garcia

Olivia Garcia

The past couple of days have been a trying time for the community as it mourns the loss of a young Bakersfield Police Department officer.

Officer David Nelson died early Friday in a fiery crash at the intersection of Mt. Vernon Avenue and Panorama Drive, near Bakersfield College, while in pursuit of a suspect. (Over the weekend, authorities arrested a suspect in connection with the incident.)

But, like many, I was comfortably sound asleep in my bed in a chilly AC-blowing home while Nelson was out keeping our city safe in the middle of the night. He was only 26 years old and had been on the force for two years, but the contributions he made during his short time in life were significant.

Law enforcement friends have described him as the "nicest guy in the world." He was physically fit and considered an up-and-comer in his young career. Law enforcement friends say his professionalism was one of the best.

Since news of his tragic accident, many -- including those in law enforcement, retired and active, as well as family, friends and strangers -- have turned to social media to express heartfelt messages about Nelson, offer ways to remember him, and reflect on the risk officers take as protectors in our communities.

I am reminded of that each time my husband heads out to a SWAT call or when I see our friends patrolling the neighborhoods or serving in a special enforcement unit for a local agency.

Making this town safer and better is the code that these officers follow without pause, even now in these trying times.

Angela Barton, incoming president of the Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation, said the fallen officer's death is being felt throughout the county and state, whether people are in law enforcement or not.

"His death affects us all," Barton said. "We're all intertwined. My hearts goes out to his family. He was so young. It just breaks my heart."

Barton said the foundation's board is exploring ways to pay tribute to Nelson at its upcoming 2015 Officer of the Year Awards Dinner. The event is July 17 at the Stockdale Country Club.

The nonprofit group has been known to recognize fallen officers as well as active law enforcement men and women who have gone beyond the call of duty.

KCLEF raises funds and works independently to support local law enforcement agencies through various means, including purchasing additional equipment that a certain department may lack due to a limited budget, and honoring officers at its annual awards ceremony.

"Bakersfield is a big supporter of law enforcement, and this is why it's important for communities to come together to support officers. Whether they have been officers for two years or 25 years, they are putting their lives on the line every day."

For more information about the event, please contact Angela Barton at 661-345-8091.

IRISH FOOTBALL: Believe it or not, football training season has begun and a local team is looking for players.

The Irish Youth Football team, operated through the Golden Empire Youth Football league, is seeking players for its varsity team. Players must be between the ages of 12 to 14 years old.

"We teach our players the fundamentals and how to respect their fellow players and coaches," said Irish coach Chris Resendez. "We instill sportsmanship and work ethic. Our players understand that they are student athletes, students first, athletes second."

For more information, please email irishfootball70@gmail.com or contact Chris Resendez at 661-201-1284 or Irish Varsity head coach Adam Resendez at 661-304-0230.

RUN FOR CATS: A local runner and feline lover is spreading the word about an upcoming a 5k race and walk to benefit The Cat People.

The first Feline 5k run/walk, and 1-mile fun run will be held Aug. 1 at CALM (California Living Museum), said Lupe Evans, who is helping organize the event to raise funds for supplies for nonprofit group. TeamIBProFun, a running group Evans is involved in, is hosting the run.

The 5k starts at 7 a.m., and the fun run starts at 7:45. Registration is $25 for the 5k or $30 on race day.

The 1-mile run is free for kids 10 years and under; no registration is needed, Evans said.

Bib pick up will take place at Sole 2 Soul Sports on July 31 from 4 to 7 p.m., and on race day, from 6 to 6:30 a.m.

The first 100 participants are guaranteed a shirt. Medals and prizes will be given to top three male and female finishers for the 5k.

Registration is available at Active.com or TeamIBProFun.com.

To sponsor or sign up or for other information, please contact Evans at 661-805-0600.

Olivia Garcia is a Californian columnist and editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines. Send her tips at ogarcia@ bakersfield.com. Her work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are her own.

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