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Running for charity motivates participants in Pittsburgh Marathon

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
The Love146 marathon team poses for a portrait in Beaver on Sunday, March 3, 2013. The team runs to benefit Love146, an organization that attempts to stop childhood trafficking. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The Animal Rescue League's executive director Dan Rossi greets Vega, a Cocker Spaniel mix in his office in Homewood Monday March 4, 2013. The Animal Rescue League is one of the Pittsburgh Marathon’s partner charities and is hoping to raise $150,000 this year through its team members. As part of the organization’s marathon team, Rossi is vowing to get a tattoo of the organization’s logo if he can raise $10,000 by himself. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Danny Massaro felt unaccomplished after running the final leg of the FedEx Ground Pittsburgh Marathon Relay in 2012 and finishing alongside people who ran the full 26.2 miles.

“I still recall crossing the finish line after we only ran 5.5 (miles), and I remember these marathon runners walking up to me and high-fiving me, thinking I had actually run the full or the half marathon,” Massaro said. “From there, I told myself: ‘You know, I feel like a fraud — I'm running the full marathon next year.'”

In need of extra motivation to do that, Massaro decided to run for charity. He formed a team to run in support of Love146, a nonprofit that seeks to eliminate child sex trafficking.

Massaro's group, Running Against Traffic(k), has about 30 members and seeks to raise $10,000 for Love146.

It's just one of many teams that will run for charity during marathon weekend May 4-5.

When the Pittsburgh Marathon returned in 2009 after a five-year absence, officials organized the Run for a Reason program, in which the marathon partnered with charities in a fundraising effort.

Five charities partnered with the marathon in 2009 and combined to raise about $500,000. The numbers grew to 43 charities, more than 2,500 runners and more than $2 million raised in 2012, and it could get even bigger this year with 70 charities partnered officially with the marathon.

Adriane Deithorn, the marathon's director of development, said charity registrations begin to pile up once regular registration for the marathon and half marathon sells out. The marathon holds back 1,000 charity registrations to use after a sellout.

“Now charities are really starting to get their fundraising goals up because people are willing to race for them,” Deithorn said. “The charities love this time of year because they raise so much money, which is great.”

Run for a Reason is broken down into five levels, with each requiring different registrant and fundraising numbers from the charity.

Runners must reach a certain fundraising amount, depending on which race they run —the full marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, 5K or kids marathon. The charity gets the money raised, minus the cost of the registration, which the charity pays if the runner reaches his or her goal.

If runners don't reach the fundraising goal, they can't run for their charity.

“We've never had a problem (with that),” said Adriane Deithorn, director of development with the marathon. “Even the racers post-sellout who are signing up kind of desperately, and (who) never expected to have to raise money, we've never had a problem. Everybody has raised the money.”

Charity officials say fundraising from the marathon benefits them greatly. The Animal Rescue League, which first participated in Run for a Reason in 2011, raised about $150,000 combined its first two years and hopes to raise another $150,000 this year.

Marketing director Ann Yeager said it costs about $125 a week to take care of an animal in the shelter.

In an added twist this year, Animal Rescue League executive director Dan Rossi is promising to get a tattoo of the organization's logo if he can raise $10,000 by himself. Through Sunday, he'd raised $4,655.

“I'm not a tattoo person, so this is pretty outside the box for me,” Rossi said. “(But) I wanted to raise even more money this year, so I thought, ‘What would be a good way of challenging the community to raise more money so we can save more lives and help more animals here?' and the idea of sort of connecting these ideas together came together.”

While the money helps, the publicity from the marathon can benefit charities as well. Many nonprofits affiliated with the marathon get a tent in the “Charity Village” set up near the finish line.

“It's another group that you touch,” said Colleen Dwyer, program director at Gilda's Club of Western Pennsylvania. “We do various fundraising events to try to reach out to different people in the community. (This is) another great way — you're touching runners, walkers, people who are cheering their runners on — just spreading awareness.”

While the Love146 team isn't officially partnered with the marathon — the team set up a private website for its venture — Massaro said he's glad the cause galvanized so many people to run. He said one of his friends hadn't run in two years but is participating during race weekend.

Yeager said it's not rare to see first-time runners join the cause.

“It's a motivator for people,” she said. “That's why people will do it. It makes them feel good doing it, one, but it motivates them to actually put their minds to it and do it.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or dgulasy@tribweb.com.

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