By Brenna McDermott
Lt. Buddy Anliker of the University of Missouri Police Department and his wife, Christie, were out for a run shortly after the 2016 shooting in Dallas, Texas, where five police officers were killed.
“We were talking about that event and we both said, ‘We have to do more. We have to do something different,’” Buddy says.
Both avid runners, they decided to plan a 5K to raise money for the Missouri chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), which provides resources to assist surviving families and co-workers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
What better way to honor those individuals than naming the race after one of Columbia’s own? Buddy wanted to honor Officer Molly Bowden, a city of Columbia police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2005. And why not start and finish the run at Molly Bowden Memorial Park?
Thus, Molly’s Miles was created.
Buddy and many MU PD officers worked with Molly for a year before she moved to Columbia Police Department. “There were a lot of us at the University Police Department that had that connection with Molly. Once the tragedy happened, it really touched a lot of us,” Buddy says.
The Anlikers got permission from Molly’s husband, Cory, and her parents, Dave and Beverly Thomas. Beverly says she knew it would be a great way to honor Mid-Missouri’s law enforcement and wanted to get involved.
“Not that anyone would ever forget Molly, but sometimes what happens in these cases is there’s a lot of emotion and support when the incident happens and a few months after,” Buddy says. “After that, a lot of that kind of drops off, unfortunately. In Molly’s case that’s never been the case. Columbia’s been an amazing community that has always rallied around her and her family.”
The cause, providing funds to Missouri C.O.P.S., was a project near and dear to the Thomas’ hearts. They’ve been involved with the organization for almost 13 years.
“It gets out to the community how much our law enforcement is in need of support,” Beverly says. “I, like a lot of people, had never heard of that organization until we lost our daughter. And they do, they give you so much support.”
Supporting the Family
Buddy has been a police officer for 28 years. Molly’s Miles is personal for him, his wife, and his three children. Every day he goes to work, he could face life-threatening situations.
“It really resonated with my wife that she felt that we have to do something for the survivors, those that are left behind,” Buddy says. “The Missouri C.O.P.S. motto is ‘Honor the Survivors.’ This was a way that we could do that.”
The first Molly’s Miles was held in 2017. Buddy remembers when he pitched the idea he thought it’d be a good start to get 200 or 300 runners.
Instead, 1,000 runners participated and Molly’s Miles donated $26,000 to Missouri C.O.P.S.
“It was just overwhelming how many people signed up and were there. We had just so many people in Columbia, businesses that wanted to support it,” Beverly says. “It was really overwhelming. We’ve just been so humbled by the way the community has supported us during the loss of our daughter.”
Officers from departments all over Mid-Missouri and the state ran in that race, as well as families and community members. Survivors put medals on runners at the finish line. It was an emotional day for the family of the blue, and they leaned on each other.
Because of Molly, Beverly and David will forever be part of that law enforcement family.
“Our daughter’s left us with quite a family that takes care of us so much,” Beverly says. “They’ve just adopted us, and we just love them all. They’re out there every day putting their lives on the line, never knowing what’s going to happen.”
“As much time as we spend together and sometimes in situations where we have to lean on each other like a family, it was very emotional,” Buddy says. “I found myself a few times fighting back the tears.”
The 2018 race will take place on April 7, and in addition to a 5K, there will be a 10K race. Molly’s Miles will also offer a virtual run this year after out of state runners expressed interest in participating. Each participant will receive a challenge coin keepsake with Molly’s picture on it. Buddy says they hope to raise $30,000 to $35,000 this year.
With help from a committee made up of civilians and representatives from departments across Mid-Missouri, title sponsor Landmark Bank, location sponsor Boone Hospital Center, and many others, it’s going to be another great race in Molly’s memory.
Law enforcement is a calling, Beverly says. It certainly was for Molly. Beverly recalls receiving letters after Molly died from people she’d arrested. Molly would talk to them, try to help them as much as she could. “She just wanted to help people and love them,” Beverly says.
When asked what Molly would think about the race, Beverly’s voice swells with a mother’s pride.
“She would be in the front of the line running, and she would be so excited to see law enforcement honored in this way. She would just be right in the middle of it and be smiling her big smile.”