Boston (Pa.) for Boston (Mass.): Students set up 5K to raise funds for bomb victims

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Like millions of Americans, Matt Casturo and Miranda Steinkopf were horrified by what happened when two men detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon on April 15.

But the philanthropically minded boyfriend and girlfriend, both 18-year-old seniors at Elizabeth Forward High School, wanted to do more than send in what they could to The One Fund Boston, set up to benefit the bombing victims and their families.

"We wanted to help," said Mr. Casturo.

The connection to Boston was both emotional -- "I couldn't help feel for the people who went through that," Ms. Steinkopf said -- and geographic.

The Casturos live in the Boston section of Elizabeth Township, which is also the location of a major stop on the Youghiogheny River Trail, where many a road race has been run. (Ms. Steinkopf also lives in Elizabeth Township.)

"The day after the bombing, [Matt] was still bothered by it and he told me, 'Mom, we've got to do something. Boston for Boston,' " recalled his mother, Tracy Casturo.

After a few weeks of mulling over the idea, the teens decided a 5K road race would be the best way to raise money and honor the victims.

"It just made sense," Ms. Steinkopf said. "And we wanted to be able to get the money to the victims as quick as possible."

The result was that a little more than three weeks ago, the young couple began putting out fliers and posting notices on websites and social media for the "Boston for Boston 5K Run and Walk," with the catch phrase they put on T-shirts: "Runners United to Remember."

They targeted Memorial Day weekend to put it on and hoped they might get 50 or 60 people -- typical of local races on the trail -- and maybe raise $1,000.

"When they first came to me, I wasn't sure about it," said Malena Mazurek, a biology teacher at Elizabeth Forward who is the sponsor for Interact, the school's community service program run with the local Rotary Club. "I was a little nervous with only three weeks to put it together."

But after pulling together 12 sponsors -- including the Casturos' family-run recycling business -- hiring a timing company, printing T-shirts and a banner, buying all the food and drink they thought they'd need, and getting two dozen family and friends to volunteer, the race took off at 9 a.m. Saturday.

A member of Mr. Casturo's Greenock United Methodist Church, Ruth Sabo, gave a prayer before the race began, noting that the runners gathered Saturday morning were "attempt[ing] to reach across the miles and help those in need and hurting."

In all, 130 runners showed up on a spectacularly blue and sunny though chilly late spring Saturday morning, every one of them mindful of the event that was the motivation for the run and walk.

"It's a great cause," said Jessica Tapia, 39, of Elizabeth, who came out with her good friend Teri Berardi, 42, of North Huntingdon, for what amounted to a training run as they prepare for next fall's Pittsburgh Great Race 10K.

The bombing in Boston "was just horrible," Ms. Tapia said. "Those poor people just came to run."

Brent Lopick, 34, a special education teacher at Falk School at the University of Pittsburgh, was looking for a race this weekend and decided doing one for a good cause was even better.

"It's nice to think a small town here can have an impact and contribute to people in a big city like Boston," said Mr. Lopick, who won the race in 16 minutes 54 seconds.

He, like most, had no idea that two high school kids managed to put a well-run race together around another service project, prom, final exams, graduation and plans for college (Ms. Steinkopf is going to Pitt and Mr. Casturo is headed to Ohio State).

"This is a daunting task for anyone," Mr. Lopick said, "let alone high-schoolers."

Their families expressed awe at the heart and efforts of Mr. Casturo and Ms. Steinkopf, who finished near the top of their graduating class and are leading a project to restore the courtyard at the high school. As to where two teenagers get such motivation, family members had varying versions of the same idea.

"They care," said Helen Steinkopf, 68, Ms. Steinkopf's grandmother, who walked the 5K Saturday and won her age group. "It's human-to-human connections. I mean, if you don't care about your fellow man, forget it."

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Sean D. Hamill: or 412-263-2579.


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