WHEELING - In recent years, the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk - the area's premier endurance event - has become a testament to the enduring spirit of giving that is so much a part of the Ohio Valley's identity.
That spirit and the new direction will continue this year when the race donates proceeds from its 37th annual running to the Augusta Levy Learning Center in North Wheeling, where children with autism receive intensive, one-on-one therapy that enables many of its graduates to achieve success in regular classrooms. Race events are set for Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25, on the streets of Wheeling.
Fifteen children ranging in age from 17 months to 6 years old attend Augusta Levy. The center's dedicated staff would love to welcome double, triple, even five times that number to its programs, but funding constraints have led to a long waiting list for precious few openings, said center Director Kathy Shappel. Race organizers hope the contribution will help raise awareness of the incredible work done there and serve as a springboard for expansion of Augusta Levy's programs through even greater community involvement.
Runners leave the start line during the 2012 Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic. The event, held each Memorial Day weekend, donates its proceeds each year to a local charitable cause that helps improve the area’s quality of life.
Since 2010, the Ogden race has donated about $50,000 to local charitable causes, advancing its vision of transforming a popular athletic contest into a true community event.
Its initial contribution went to the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley's effort to build a Miracle Field at the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex off Interstate 470 in Elm Grove.
The race's support helped spark a true outpouring of community support that transformed the field of dreams into a reality. Ground was broken in October 2011, and the field is expected to be ready for play May 18.
In 2011, the Ogden race committee chose to partner with the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission's Super Six football championships held each year in Wheeling to help fund an ongoing scholarship for student-athletes and band members in honor of the late Howard Corcoran.
Corcoran, who died Oct. 31, 2010, at the age of 64, left his mark on the valley in a variety of ways - including as a former director of both the Ogden race and Super Six football championship and as a successful businessman for more than 30 years.
His tireless push to have artificial turf installed at Wheeling Island Stadium was one of the driving forces that has kept the Super Six in Wheeling year after year.
In 2012, race organizers decided once again to go to bat for the Miracle Field effort as fundraising for the $800,000 project hit the home stretch.
That additional infusion of support is helping to pay for finishing touches for the field, including conveniently located handicapped-accessible restrooms and concession stands.
"Over the past three years, the race has been able to support projects that benefit not only the youth of the Ohio Valley, but also help improve the area's overall quality of life," said Perry Nardo, general manager of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
"From the Miracle Field to supporting local student-athletes through the Howard Corcoran Scholarship Fund, our goal is to donate the race proceeds to causes that will benefit the area for years to come.
"Our decision this year to support the Augusta Levy Learning Center was an obvious one.
"Autism has become a growing concern in our nation, and we believe the support the race can give will be a springboard for the future advancement of Augusta Levy's program."
Ogden Race Director R. "Scat" Scatterday has a personal connection with the center's work.
He has a family member that went from being a completely non-communicative child to an inquisitive, active learner after going through the program.
"Consistent with the philosophy of the Ogden Half Marathon Classic, it's an honor and a privilege to partner with this organization that has proven results and improves quality of life on an individual basis," said Scatterday.
Events surrounding the Ogden Half Marathon kick off Friday evening, May 24, with the annual Torch Relay honoring America's military veterans beginning at 4 p.m. in Elm Grove and traversing the last 6 miles of the half marathon course. Preliminary events continue at 6:45 p.m. with the Ogden Tiny Tot Trot for children 5 and under, a 100-yard dash and the Ogden Fun Run and Ogden Mile at 7:15 and 7:30 p.m., respectively, both of which begin at the top of Wheeling Hill.
Activities on Saturday, May 25, begin at 7:30 p.m., when participants in the Half Marathon Walk step onto the course, followed by the main event, the Half Marathon Run and Relay, at 8 a.m. The annual 5K Run/Walk for Health begins at 8:15 a.m.
Live entertainment and food vendors will be available throughout the morning, with an awards ceremony planned for about 11:30 a.m. at the Heritage Port Amphitheater.
Registration is currently available at www.ogdenhalfmarathonclassic.com and will continue through May 13. Late registration will be available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 24 at the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center. There is no race day registration.