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TakeOff race benefits Kenton Iwaniec foundation

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Ligonier Echo
Acacia Houck of Scottdale, (from left) displays the Preliminary Breath Test devices, to race committee members, Pete Findrick of Ruffsdale, and Ken Iwaniec of Ligonier, during a meeting held last week at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Unity Township to finalize plans for the upcoming 'Take Off' race event, held in memory of Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec, to be held Saturday at St. Vincent College.

The five-year anniversary of Kenton Iwaniec's death has been a time for his family to reflect about the relatives, friends, law enforcement members and even strangers who, through the fallen trooper's story, have strengthened their commitment to the fight against impaired driving.

The Cook Township native and St. Vincent College graduate was killed by a drunk driver who crossed the centerline and hit his vehicle head on March 28, 2008.

“Thanks to our amazing support system and foundation members, we've been extremely blessed to be able to create memories and leave a legacy in Kenton's honor,” said Kenton's sister, Sashonna Zacour of Colorado Springs, Colo. “Every event we attend, every fundraiser we hold, every Preliminary Breath Tester we distribute is a celebration of Kenton's life and all lives that have been destroyed by impaired driving.”

The fourth TakeOff: Honor the Past, Shape the Future Race to benefit the Trooper Kenton Iwaniec Memorial Foundation is Saturday at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

Events include a 1-mile fun walk, 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, 100M children's sprint for age 6 and under and a ½ mile children's run for ages 10 and under.

“We credit to all the good people who believe in our mission.” said Kenton's mother Debby Iwaniec. “And, this is perfect timing with April being Alcohol Awareness Month.”

Since the fundraiser began four years ago, the foundation has purchased 377 PBT units, 200 units during the past year.

Each device is valued at $540. To date they have been provided to local police departments in Ligonier, Latrobe, Derry, Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale and North Huntingdon.

“The family is proud to say every state police barracks in the state has at least one PBT unit,” said Debby Iwaniec. “Our original goal was to see that every state police barracks had a PBT unit. We accomplished that goal in 2012. Now we are calling them to offer five units to each state police station in the Commonwealth.”

Some of those officers will be receiving one of the 70 units being distributed during the opening ceremony and will also be participating in the race. The Iwaniecs want all 14 troops in the state to have five units.

“People who contribute to our foundation get to see what the donation provides right away,” said Ken Iwaniec about the distribution of the test units.

Volunteer Margie Washnock is coordinating the regulation process for the race. She has been a teacher in the Ligonier Valley School District for 31 years and teaches math at the high school.

“Debby is my best friend. Kenton was near and dear to us,” said Washnock about the Ligonier Valley alumni.“We believe in this. It is a definite community thing for everybody. It is in memory of Kenton but it helps everybody.”

Washnock will be participating in the race with the Running Rams, a group comprised of Ligonier teachers, their families and friends.

“We won the team participation award last year with most members. We had 32 members and plan to have the same this year.” she said.

She said many of the students at the high school are volunteers. Another race team representing Ligonier High School's JROTC program will be led by Master Sgt. Oates.

“They will present the colors at the opening ceremony,” Washnock said.

Registration is 7 to 8:30 a.m. at the Fred Rogers Center; opening ceremony is 8:40 a.m. and the races will begin at 9 a.m. Registration is $30 for adults and $20 for children 10 and under. Register online at and on Facebook. There will also be auctions and educational and interactive activities.

This year the foundation will offer another way to contribute.

“Our race committee is initiating a pledge drive,” said Kenton's sister, Acacia Houck, who is the vice president of the foundation.

For every $50 a racer has donated by friends, co-workers or relative, they will receive a chance to win four exclusive Lexus Club Pirate tickets valued between $740 — $980.

To become eligible to win the tickets, print the pledge form available at website, solicit sponsors from now until race day, and then turn pledge sheet and money into the pledge station on race day located on level 2 in the Fred Rogers Center. The drawing will take place after the awards and the winner does not have to be present to win the drawing.

“Our family is not unique; our story is similar to thousands of other families victimized by impaired drivers,” said Houck. “This event is designed to honor the lives lost at the hands of impaired drivers, raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving, and provide tools to officers who keep our roads safe. We hope that we can continue to spread the message that acts as simple as calling 911 when you see an impaired driver, taking the keys from an impaired driver, and planning a designated driver in advance can not only save the life of the impaired driver but also prevent innocent people from being injured or killed.”

Last year the foundation added a second fundraiser, a sporting clay event at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington. This year's event is Sept. 21.

For information, call 724-593-2520.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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