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Memorial Day 5K road race benefits veterans, families

The Memorial Day Parade is a giant display of “thanks” to all war veterans.

The Memorial Day 5K Race is another way to say “thanks” in a different way.

Nine years ago, the Memorial Day 5K Run began with about 70 runners. Today, those numbers have swelled to more than 300.

The race committee members decided they wanted to do something with the race proceeds and the late Frank McCown came up with the idea to sponsor a one-year scholarship for a veteran or their child or grandchild to attend Ohio University Southern.

“Frank’s involvement with the Memorial Day Parade and veterans guided us to continue the race and its support of veterans,” said Joe Isaac, a member of the race committee.

“It was Frank’s idea to develop a scholarship for a Lawrence County veteran or dependent of the veteran to be given a one-year scholarship to Ohio Southern.”

Ohio Southern was not only receptive to the idea but matched the scholarship.

“Now we have two one-year scholarships,” said Isaac.

Iraqi War veteran Jeremy Fleihman became the first graduate of Ohio Southern to benefit from the scholarship. This year’s recipients are Josh Ison and Autumn Markel.

The growth of the race has been the key to providing money for the scholarships.

“A lot of the race’s success has to do with the weekend festivities,” said Isaac. “It’s become a natural part of what’s happening during the weekend.”

The festivities start on Thursday night with Navy Night and the annual St. Joseph/St. Lawrence Charity Fair is held Friday through Sunday.

The 142nd annual Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade — the longest running parade in America — is held Memorial Day starting at 10 a.m. The 5K race gets underway at 8 a.m. and runs through Woodland Cemetery that includes a war memorial to help tie in with the weekend theme.

“A lot of people put this race on their calendar as part of their weekend activities,” said Isaac. “We get a lot of out-of-town runners, there’s a lot of word of mouth advertisement, and it’s one of the few 5K races in the area and it’s a safe course.”

The race committee is hoping to increase the scholarship awards in the future. Isaac said donations from sponsors including St. Mary’s Hospital — the race’s biggest booster — are the key.

“This is now one of the biggest races in the area and we would love to have more sponsors and more scholarships,” said Isaac.

Committee member Mike Haas said that making sure profits exist before the race are important in awarding the scholarships.

“Since more high school graduations occur prior to our race, we are forced to hold the proceeds from the race and fund the award for the following school year,” said Haas.

“Normally, we try to have a member of our committee present the scholarship whenever possible at the graduation.”

The scholarship is open to all Lawrence County veterans and/or dependents.