Sweet Summertime Sprint 5K set for Aug. 4
At 9 a.m. Saturday, a time that should be safe for runners during the summer, the Michael Czerwien Memorial Scholarship Fund is going to have a 5K race in North Park.
Michael Czerwien of West View died July 6, 2010, at the age of 25 from heatstroke hyperthermia after working a long shift at a construction site in Greene County.
Czerwien was a football player at North Hills Senior High School and went on to play at Waynesburg College. He set the NCAA record for career sacks while he was at Waynesburg and was in the Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd" section in 2007. He tried out for the Indianapolis Colts in the spring of 2008.
"Michael's coach funded a scholarship, and we were talking with friends, and we decided to make it something bigger," said Jamie Czerwien Wood of McCandless, Czerwien's sister and the director of the Michael Czerwien Memorial Scholarship Fund. "We are keeping his spirit and putting it all towards the good."
The Sweet Summertime Sprint - Michael Czerwien Memorial Run will start at the North Park Boathouse, which is along Pearce Mill Road in the McCandless section of the park. It then will proceed to the tennis courts, over the bridge and loop around back to the boathouse by way of Kolich Grove.
Main sponsors for the event include Schmidt Consulting Services, where Czerwien's mother works; Bruegger's Bagels in Ross Township, which is donating 30 dozen bagels for the event; and Jergel's Rhythm Grille in Marshall Township, which donated space for an earlier fundraiser.
Attendees at the fundraiser at Jergel's had a drink called a "Tank Shot" that tastes like an orange Tic Tac candy. The event brought back memories of Czerwien, who, as a defensive end, was referred to as "The Polish Tank" by friends and teammates. "He had Polish pride, and he loved being Polish and being from Pittsburgh," Czerwien Wood said.
Czerwien Wood is posting pictures of people doing summer activities with their water bottles on the organization's Facebook page as a way to get the word out about hydration. Her organization will be giving away water bottles at the race.
The main goal of the event is to promote awareness of hydration, said Czerwien Wood, 32.
"We wanted to take the scholarship and turn it into something about heatstroke awareness," she said. "Our main goal is to educate about hydration. You have to be aware of your body and of the signs of heatstroke."
"In sports, when I was growing up, (hydration) wasn't a big thing," said Shannon Brady, a good friend of Czerwien Wood, and a fund board member. "It is something that people should sit down and learn," she said.
"People don't think that (heatstroke) could happen to them," Wood said.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body tries to cool itself by releasing sweat, but when moisture in the air will not allow the sweat to evaporate, it can cause the body to overheat. If body temperature reaches 104 degrees F or higher, the result is heatstroke, which can be fatal if it is not treated.
As a long-term goal, Wood said, she hopes to partner with a bigger sponsor, such as Gatorade, which makes drinks that help keep people hydrated. She also hopes to have 200 participants in this year's race. The organization is working toward getting Internal Revenue Service-recognized charitable status, Czerwien Wood said.
"This is what he would have wanted," said Brady, 29, of Ross. "We're going to take care of Michael's spirit and use him as an example."
The proceeds of the race are for the Michael Czerwien Memorial Scholarship, which will go a North Hills senior who will attend Waynesburg University.
"It will be for someone who has a lower GPA, who needs the help and support to get into school, but also wants to further their education to better their life," Czerwien Wood said.