WELLSVILLE-Each year, the roll call of people remembered at the Dash for Mat's Bash gets longer:
Runners in the fifth annual OVCT Dash for Mat’s Bash leave the starting line on Saturday in front of the Wellsville Fire Department. The race is a fundraiser for the Mathugh Johnston Memorial Corp. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
And, now, Chelsea Lingenfelter.
"Each year, it's in honor of another person who's passed, unfortunately," said race organizer Tim Long, of Wellsville.
Long started the Dash for Mat's Bash in 2009 in honor of his cousin, Mathugh Johnston, who died in 2007 of leukemia at age 15. The 1.5-mile road race/walk/run raises funds for the Mathugh Johnston Memorial Corp., which awards scholarships to qualifying Wellsville High School graduates and helps families with children in need.
On Saturday, the fifth annual event was held in honor of Wellsville native Lingenfelter, who, at age 21, died in February during a liver transplant operation at the Cleveland Clinic.
Lingenfelter's mother, Joni Rodgers Logston, and her stepfather, Steve Logston, were at a loss for words when recognized by Long prior to the race. "There's nothing I need to say about this community and how it comes together. You're awesome," Steve Logston said. "Thank you for doing this ... and for remembering Chelsea."
Although rain delayed some of the activities and canceled the Kids Dash, it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the participants. "It's absolutely unreal how big this thing's gotten," Long said.
Participation has grown from 200 registered runners in 2009 to an estimated 500 adult and youth runners this year, Long said.
New this year was a Fire Truck Pull in support of Noah Long, 7, of Wellsville, who was diagnosed five weeks ago with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), cancer of the bone marrow.
Firefighters from Wellsville, Calcutta, Franklin Township, Liverpool Township and Highlandtown organized the truck pull, which had them pulling a 36,000-pound fire engine a distance determined by the number of donations received. "For every dollar, we pull it a yard," said Long, a volunteer Wellsville firefighter.
Noah Long's mother, Katie Long, said she was overwhelmed by the show of support from "people we don't even know."
"There isn't a word to describe it," she said. "It's very humbling. The love and support of complete strangers gives us the courage to be strong for Noah."
Long said her son was diagnosed on Sept. 4, the day he started second grade at Karaffa Elementary School in Toronto, Ohio. Since then, he's been receiving chemotherapy treatments at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. The family currently is awaiting the results of a bone marrow biopsy.
"His determination and will is strong," Katie Long said. "He's amazing to be 7 years old and to take all this in."
Katie Long's cousin, Mindy Zimmer, was manning the "Noah's Warriors" booth inside the Wellsville Fire Department on Saturday. "It's times like this when you want to do something," Zimmer said, "but there's really nothing you can do - except this."
The annual event is sponsored by the Ohio Valley College of Technology.