5K event in North Park to honor friend killed in vehicle crash

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Good friends always remember the good times.

Erik Hood and a whole host of Jeff Fromlak's friends and acquaintances are honoring him with a 5K run/walk in North Park on June 30. Fromlak, 26, of West View, was killed in a single-vehicle crash in McCandless on Jan. 27.

Hood, 26, of Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood, got the call at 1 a.m.

“I was with him all day that day,” Hood said.

Weeks later, a small group gathered to plan a commemorative event and decided that a run/walk on a day near Fromlak's birthday, June 24, would be the best way to celebrate his life. The family also chose Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania & Southern West Virginia for the fundraising focus.

“Janet, Christine and I are appreciative for all of the hard work and efforts that all have made for Jeff's memorial 5K,” said Bruce Fromlak, Jeff Fromlak's father, who serves as West View's police chief and borough manager. “Jeff enjoyed traveling and making children laugh, so we thought Make-A-Wish would be a great organization to support in his memory.”

Hood holds that organization close to his heart; he was a Make-A-Wish recipient after being diagnosed with cancer as an infant. At age 10, Hood made a wish for an unforgettable trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, which he, his parents and two siblings enjoyed. Now, after more than a decade, Hood is fully cured, and his 820-page Army National Guard health document proved it.

“Jeff would never do this,” run a race, that is, his friends said. Fromlak had participated in crew and football at North Catholic High School in Pittsburgh's Troy Hill neighborhood, where the young men met as members of the Class of 2005. After graduation, Hood joined the Army National Guard and still serves today in Mt. Pleasant; Fromlak was a proud member of the 171st Air Refueling Wing Air National Guard.

He was the reason why Erin Shaw, also of Brighton Heights, enlisted in the Air Force almost six years ago.

“This was his family's business,” she said of the 171st, in which Fromlak's father also served. “Jeff always knew what he would do with himself.”

But she and Fromlak had much more in common than the military; they had been friends since the ninth grade.

“He was there for anybody whenever they needed,” Shaw, 26, said. “Everybody thought they were his best friend, and he was theirs.”

Hood said he is gratified by the support of the community.

“It's been huge,” Hood said, “There are tons of volunteers asking to help. The majority of sponsors have come in.”

Business owners have stepped up to fill themed Chinese-auction baskets. More than $6,000 has been collected, and about $1,500 has been spent on T-shirts and wristbands, Hood said.

As of last week, 150 people were registered for the event. Hood expects a field of 200.

“We have big visions for the event,” Shaw, who designed the event website, said. “We hope it is everything everyone wants it to be.”

And it has to be for a young man who was loved by so many.

“If you met him once, you never forgot,” Hood said, “He was good, caring and funny.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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