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The final Debbie Green Memorial 5K to run on Aug. 7 in Wheeling

WHEELING — 2022 will be the final year for one of the Ohio Valley’s hallmark events as the Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia will end after 25 years, race director Ronnie Green announced earlier this week.

“I don’t want anybody to think that this is an easy decision, because it’s not,” Green said. “But I look back on everything and I think that we just put on a fantastic race. We took a little hometown race and turned it into something that nobody will ever forget. My sister’s name will live on for years in the hearts of so many.”

This year’s Green Mile will be held on Aug. 6 and the Debbie Green Memorial 5K will be on Aug. 7. This year’s Green Mile will honor Joey Giovengo of Benwood, who passed away due to cancer this Spring.

The event has been held in honor of its namesake, Ronnie’s sister Debbie, who died of leukemia at age seven. All the proceeds from the race have benefitted local recipients who suffer from leukemia and pediatric cancer. Over 25 years, the event has raised $1.5 million and helped 45 families.

“It’s all been for my sister,” Green said. “Her life now has meaning.

“My goal was always 25 years,” he continued. “That was the goal that I kept and I didn’t tell a whole lot of people other than my wife and kids.”

After 25 years of planning and coordinating the race, Green said he wants to be able to spend more time with his family.

“I just felt like it was time to spend more time with my kids,” he said. “My oldest son, Joe, is going to be a senior and my youngest one, Michael, is going to be a freshman and I just feel like I need to be with them more. I don’t want to short-change them.”

Green said he has been blown away by the support the races have received over the years.

“I could never have imagined it, but I dreamed it,” Green said. “If you dream something and you work hard at it, good things are going to happen. Our largest race was just under 1,400 people. For a 5K, that’s just fantastic.”

Green said it is also important to him that the race goes out on a high note.

“The race, financially, is on the best footing it’s ever been,” he said. “We have no problems with sponsorship, everything’s great. I want to go out on a good note and I think the time is just right.

“I can’t say any time is the right time. But, if any time is the right time, now is it.”

The Debbie Green 5K has attracted competitors of all kinds from across the world over the last 25 years.

“They say time flies when you’re having fun and these 25 years have just flown by,” Green said. “I’ve seen a lot of great things from the runners and walkers and I’ve seen some great things from these kids that we’ve helped.”

The event also helped bring notice to race walking in the area. Green said early on he wanted to have just as many awards for the walkers in the race as the runners.

“One of the things I wanted to do the most was to treat the fastest runner in the world as well as that last walker to cross the finish line, because everybody meant the same to me,” he said.

Registration for this year’s races is open on DebbieGreen5K.com. There will also be a health and fitness expo held inside WesBanco Area on Aug. 7. Any parties interested in participating in the expo can contact Green at 740-296-3958.

“I could never have dreamed of meeting so many great, wonderful people,” Green said. “The runners, walkers, sponsors — I’ll cherish them forever and my family will too.”

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