COLUMBIANA - As a veteran, Columbiana resident Crystal Siembida knows the stress inflicted on families during war time.
Now, with the help of her boyfriend, Josh Boggs, she is providing the community with a way to assist those families torn apart by the war.
Boggs, a 2000 graduate and standout runner at Columbiana High School, and Siembida, a 1998 graduate of Crestview High School and a two-year Army veteran, have coordinated the “Vision for Veterans” 5K Benefit Race Saturday, June 14, at Firestone Park in Columbiana.
Benefiting the Fisher House that will be built on the Wright Patterson Air force Base in Dayton, the race is one way to inform the community of the situation the war torn families face, according to Siembida.
“The race will hopefully bring awareness to the overall situation in Iraq,” she said. “People don't know about how families are separated and struggling for months to heal.”
With runners from multiple counties and communities, the race will also promote the excellence of Firestone Park, Siembida said.
“It is a great activity to utilize the park,” she said. “People from all over will come to Columbiana and see what we have to offer. It's just a feel good event for everybody.”
After creating and sending over 85 care packages for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan last year, Siembida said she wanted do something a little different. Since Boggs enjoys running so much - he is in training for a Cleveland marathon with aspirations to run the Boston marathon - it only made sense to coordinate a race together, she said.
“I really enjoyed the care packages , but I wanted to do something different,” she said. “When I met Josh, he wanted to get involved, too. So we chose to do a race since he enjoys running.”
After deciding on a race, Siembida said she contacted the Department of Veterans' Services in Lisbon to find a good organization for which to donate the proceeds.
“We decided that the Fisher House would benefit the most people,Ó she said. "There are a lot of worthy places, though, that need all the support they can get.”
According to information provided in the sponsorship package distributed by Siembida and Boggs, ground breaking for the Fisher House at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base is scheduled for September 2008 and will replace the base's current and outdated Nightingale House. Providing rent-free housing for soldiers receiving medical treatment and their families who can not afford to pay to live in a hotel or rent an apartment, the house is not paid for by taxpayers.
Operated solely on donations, the current facility costs $14,000 per month to operate. As the largest trauma center in the Midwest and the second largest in the Air Force, the new facility will cost $2 million to build. Challenging local organizations to raise $1 million for the construction of the facility, the national Fisher House organization will provide the other $1 million, according to the information in the sponsorship package.
With approximately $100,000 already raised for the project, the Vision for Veterans race will provide an opportunity for people to get involved with a worthy cause without having to go out of their way, Siembida said.
“This is a worthwhile cause that will not only benefit our immediate community, but also the one that extends far beyond the reaches of any confinement of borders,” she said.
Beginning at 7:30 p.m., there will be a one-mile Fun Walk prior to the race.
Starting at 8 p.m. at the 150-meter mark on the track in the park, the 5K race will continue through the park and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The course will be clearly marked with directional signs and will finish with a fast lap around the track.
Even though the race will benefit the Fisher House, participants can benefit in more than one way, according to Siembida. Not only will they receive the altruistic benefits, but the top three overall male and female performers will receive $100, $50 and $25 respectively. Other awards will be given to the top three male and female runners in each age group of 15 and under, 16 to 19, 20 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, 35 to 39, 40 to 44, 45 to 49, 50 to 54, 55 to 59 and 60 and over. All participants will receive a goody bag filled with items corresponding with the race.
To help organize the race, Siembida said volunteers and sponsors are needed.
Those wishing to contribute have several option levels from which to choose, Siembida said. Depending on the level of contribution, contributors can advertise on racing materials including mile markers, directional signs, shirts, goody bags and the race day brochure. Sponsorships are due by May 1 and all materials must be submitted by May 31.
To register for the race or find out more about sponsorship, interested people can contact Siembida at 520-204-5257 or Boggs at 330-509-4088 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration before June 1 is $12 and registration after June 1 through the day of the race is $15. Race-day registration will be from 6 to 7:25 p.m. at pavilion 2 next to Firestone Funland. Sponsorship and donations can be sent to: A Vision for Veterans c/o Crystal Siembida, 18 S. Main St., Columbiana, OH, 44408. Direct donations should be made out to Fisher/Nightingale House, all others need to made out to Josh Boggs/Vision for Veterans.
Kevin Howell can be reached at email@example.com