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McCandless girl inspiring a community

Despite what life had dealt her, Elora Geier was a happy child.

"Elora had a tough life, but she didn't see it that way," said her mother, Leslie Geier of McCandless. "She was always happy and interested in doing new things. She was upbeat until the very end."

Elora died in 2006 of leukemia at age 14. Her illness was the second major challenge the girl faced. She suffered a brain injury as a toddler after being struck by a car and was permanently disabled. A child with special needs, she attended the North Allegheny School District until seventh grade.

She spent most of the last year of her life in the hospital, returning home for only a week.

Elora has inspired community spirit in several ways, one of which is the Elorapalooza 5K Memorial race planned for Sunday at North Park. About 400 runners and walkers are expected to compete in 13 age groups. Proceeds benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Elora's HOPE Foundation.

Established by Elora's family, the foundation has raised more than $75,000 over the past five years. The money is used to give $1,000 scholarship each year to a North Allegheny student who plans to major in special education in college. A $2,000 scholarship is awarded to a graduate student pursuing a degree in special education.

Elora inspired her mother to change careers. Once a family therapist, Leslie Geier, 52, became an oncology nurse at West Penn Hospital last year.

"Having seen what Elora went through (in treatment), I wanted to give back and help other people who may be going through the same thing," Geier said.

Medals to be given at Sunday's race tap into Elora's life story. They are made of clay by clients of Disabilities Services of the Great Plains, a nonprofit in McPherson, Kan. Tim Geier, 32, one of Elora's brothers, who lives in Kansas, learned about the company while attending an art fair earlier this year.

"I've often thought what Elora would be doing now as an adult," Geier, 32, said. "I could envision her working in a place like that."

"Tim told us all about his sister," said Amber Potter, retail coordinator for Disabilities Services of the Great Plains. "It's really sweet the way he remembers her."

Elora's other siblings are Wendy Ruano, 36, of Shaler; Mike Geier, 34, of Madison, Wis.; and Ben Geier, 21, of Oakland.

Clay bowls, made by Disabilities Services clients, will be given to the top three overall male and female finishers. A bowl also will be given to an oncology patient at West Penn, Leslie Geier said.

"Elora liked (5K) races and she enjoyed making things," said her father, Dan Geier. "She would have liked the way the medals were created. It would have been a job she would have enjoyed."

"They're more expensive than what we've given in the past, but when you consider where they were made, it's worth it," said Leslie Geier. "Elora would have loved them."

Be a part of it

What : Sixth Elorapalooza Memorial 5K race.

When : Sunday. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by the race at 9 a.m. The wheelchair race starts at 8:45 a.m.

Where : North Park Boat House.

For details and advance registration, visit WWW.ElorasHOPE.com , or call Dan Geier at 412-608-2134.

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