Kenton Iwaniec memorial fundraiser in fourth year
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 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 Unity.
Events include a 1-mile fun walk, 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, 100M children's sprint for ages 6 and under and a half-mile children's run for ages 10 and under.
“We credit 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.
Pete Findrick, a technology teacher at Yough High School and Debby Iwaniec's co-worker, has seen how it changed the Iwaniec family.
“They tried to turn something bad into something good,” Findrick said. “They put a positive spin on something negative.”
Findrick, a graphic arts teacher, said he helps with the foundation's printed materials.
He said the race has an effect on the people who participate or attend.
“They have speakers who talk to people about being responsible,” he said. “We keep the memory of Kenton alive.”
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.
Cindy Mills of Smithton is the foundation board secretary and co-chair of the food committee this year.
“Debby is my first cousin, when she approached me I was on board from the very beginning. Whatever she wants that's what I do,” said Mills.
Mills said the Yough community is very supportive.
“There are a lot of student volunteers and teachers who donate time and baskets and money to help,” she said. “One volunteer, Lou Zadecky who is a PE teacher at Yough Middle School, brings a hot dog cart and supplies and cooks them right there.”
Mills said the students help with the race and do whatever Debby Iwaniec asks them do.
“It is a success because people realize what we do to provide PBT's to police departments helps other families not to go through what Debby and Ken have gone through,” she said. “Statistics in Westmoreland County show DUI arrests are up we would like to believe it is because they have the tools they need to test them and try to get them off the road.”
Mills said the family has distributed the PBT units all across the state.
“We may not know the impact exactly, but we do know we are doing something good out of this tragedy,” Mills said. “They are out there trying to prevent other families from going through what they are going through.”
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 www.trooperiwaniec.org and on Facebook. There will also be auctions and educational and interactive activities.
For information, call 724-593-2520.
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, coworkers 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 www.trooperiwaniec.org 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.”
Deborah A. Brehun is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 724-238-2111.