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Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run/Walk Is Saturday

By RICK THORP

WHEELING — Benwood to Wheeling is only a journey of a few miles. But, the Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia has moved light years in the past two decades.

The event, which benefits families fighting leukemia/pediatric cancer, marks its 20th anniversary this year, and founder Ron Green can hardly believe how time has flown.

”It seems like yesterday that we started this,” he said. ”It’s went so fast.”

From 1998, where a small contingent of runners took to the streets of Benwood, to now, where an ever-growing flood of competitors overwhelm the thoroughfares of downtown Wheeling, the Debbie Green has become a summer road racing staple. But, while the event has grown in stature and notoriety throughout the region, and the nation, it’s goal has remained the same — helping kids and families.

”It’s an event where people come together to remember lives lost and honor those fighting cancer,” Green said. ”Not only is it physically rewarding, but it’s emotionally rewarding.”

This year’s events take place the weekend of Aug. 4-5 at Heritage Port. The Green Mile Run/Walk is slated for Friday at 7 p.m. Saturday, the Debbie’s dash kid’s race steps off at 5 p.m., followed by the main event at 7 p.m.

This year’s Green Mile is dedicated to the late Abby Frohnapfel, who lost her short battle with leukemia nearly two years at age 16.

And it’s youngsters like Abby that keep Green dedicated to the event, which has become a labor of love.

”I see what these kids go through and what these families go through,” he said. ”I’m glad we can help them in some way.”

For Green, it’s returning the favor. When his sister was battling leukemia in the early 1970s, he remembers how the community came together to help his family. Debbie Green lost her battle in 1972 at age 7, but from that point on Ron Green made it a mission to try to make sure no family had to go through what his did. And, through the Debbie Green events, he believes, they’ve made an impact.

”It’s not perfect, but we to make it as perfect as possible,” he said.

To that end, Green has tried to tweak race events annually. This year, there are two additions — a steak fry and a health and fitness expo.

The steak fry will take place Saturday, July 29 at Wheeling Park’s White Palace. Tickets are $25. There will be a D.J. Chinese Auction and door prizes Deadline for reservations is July 25.

”We thought this would be nice to kickoff our 20th year,” Green said. ”We wanted to have a little party with everyone and have a little fun.”

The expo — which is free — will take place inside WesBanco Arena. Hours are 4-9 p.m. on Aug. 4 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 5. Green said there will be a plethora of vendors on hand offering goods and services relating to the running and fitness industry. Race participants will pass through the expo upon picking up their race packets.

”I’ve been very pleased with how many vendors we’re going to have,” he said. ”We’re going to have a little bit of everything.”

Green said registrations look to be up from last year and he’s looking forward to another successful event.

”My sister is never forgotten,” he said. ”She may have been taken from us at an early age, but her life still has a lot of meaning.”

For more information about the races, steak fry or expo, visit the event’s website (debbiegreen5k.com), Facebook page, or contact Green at (740) 859-0704.

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