Miles for Mike raising money for PTSD

SHADYSIDE – Runners and walkers, mark your calendars for Saturday, June 21 at 6:30 p.m. The date has been chosen for the second Miles for Mike 5K Run/Walk, an event held to raise money for post-traumatic stress disorder charities including the Wounded Warrior Project and K-9s for Warriors.

Miles for Mike is held in honor of Mike Karkowski, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and member of the Army Reserves 339th Battalion. Karkowski committed suicide in 2009; the race is his widow Melissa Karkowski’s way of honoring him and helping others suffering from PTSD, an ever-growing problem for our nation’s veterans.

On average, 22 veterans commit suicide daily, according to the CRS Report on Casualty Statistics. Also, two out of three marriages are failing for troops suffering from PTSD. The disorder isn’t visible, but it’s wreaking havoc on the lives of men and women returning from war.

The first Miles for Mike was held in October of last year, and over $2,000 was raised to help find prevention methods and treatments for PTSD. The race was filmed for “Extreme Weight Loss,” a program produced by ABC. Karkowski was cast to be in an episode of the program last May, and since then she has been working hard to lose weight and get healthy. She will take part in filming the show’s finale on May 16. It is not yet clear when her episode will air, but it will likely be in late June.

Karkowski said previously that she took part in “Extreme Weight Loss” for two reasons: to become healthier and to gain a platform to raise PTSD awareness. She hopes that June’s 5K will raise even more money for PTSD awareness and treatment than October’s race did. It is likely to draw in a larger crowd, as it is part of Shadyside’s seventh annual Loop Festival.

“This is definitely something that we want to do every year, and every year we’re hoping that it gets bigger,” she said. “We’d like people nationwide to come and we’d like it to grow really big.”

Before the race, there will be a memorial balloon release. Loop Festival attendees will be able to write names of loved ones or memorial messages on balloons before releasing them into the air along with the rest of the crowd.

The Miles for Mike group is currently looking for motorcycle clubs to form an organized line of parked motorcycles at the race finish line. The bikers would be expected to rev engines, applaud and wave flags for participants crossing the finish line. Those interested can contact Deanna Merryman at 740-310-6598 or merryman3801@comcast.net.

Registration forms for runners and walkers can be picked up at DeFelice Pizza locations. Pre-registration packet pickup is Friday, June 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Shadyside City Building. Race day registration will also be held at the city building from 5 to 6 p.m. Early entry fee is $20, and registration after June 13 will cost $25. Pre-registration guarantees a t-shirt.

Donations are also being accepted, with a website currently under construction to accommodate them at milesformike.org. For now, make checks payable to “Miles for Mike”, c/o Melissa Karkowski, 3975 Madison Ave, Shadyside, OH 43947.

The race will start on Central Avenue and remain entirely on the mostly flat east side. Awards will be given for top three male and female in overall run/walk categories and nine age groups. To learn more about the race, call (740) 310-3496.

The Shadyside Loop Festival is currently seeking food and merchandise vendors. The festival is set for June 20 and 21 (Alumni Weekend), starting at 6 p.m. both nights and ending at 11 p.m. Interested vendors can contact Chamber of Commerce President Helen Bundorf at the Shadyside Flower Shop at (740) 676-3202.