Runners deliver 'Flags of Hope' for Franklin Regional stabbing victims
Two Franklin Regional Senior High School students recuperating from stab wounds received a surprise showing of community support on Sunday, as a team of distance runners delivered “Flags of Hope” to their hospital rooms.
“The kids are continuing to struggle, but they will get through this,” Darren Miller of Delmont said after a brief visit with the injured students.
Greg Keener, 15, is in critical but stable condition, and Connor Warwick, 16, is in fair condition at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, a hospital spokesman said. They were among 20 students and a security guard who police say classmate Alex Hribal stabbed on April 9, and are the only students who remain hospitalized.
Hribal, 16, is accused of attacking classmates at random, an 8-inch, stainless-steel kitchen knife in each hand, before classes started, police said. He is charged as an adult with 21 counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a weapon on school property.
Miller, 31, a 2001 Franklin Regional graduate and a world-class endurance athlete who last summer became the first American man to complete the Ocean's Seven challenge, decided to run in support of the community, with any donations benefiting the “We Are FR Fund” established at S&T Bank, Murrysville.
Warwick's and Keener's family members permitted Miller to visit their hospital rooms and deliver flags of blue and gold, the school district's colors, signed by students, staff and community members. Family members declined comment.
“The kids were a little shocked. They were not sure what I was doing there,” Miller said.
The boys' rooms are packed with balloons, cards and banners, he said. Both were able to sit up in their beds and chat, and were excited to hear about the flag run.
“They were so happy to hear that there's so many people in the community surrounding us with a police escort and the truck and the American flag, all good people out here just doing what they can to bring a smile to their faces. That's what it's all about,” Miller said.
The runners continued on Route 22 and Oakland's Fifth Avenue, arriving at UPMC Presbyterian where a trauma surgeon accepted a flag in support of the hospital's treatment of student Jared Boger, 17, who was discharged on Wednesday and is recovering from a stab wound.
About 10 runners accompanied Miller after gathering at Franklin Regional and meeting their police escorts.
Emily Vargo, 31, of Clearwater Beach, Fla., and Tawnya Mann, 32, of The Woodlands near Houston, Texas, are childhood friends and 2000 Franklin Regional graduates. They learned of Miller's plans through Facebook. Vargo's mother made the blue and gold flags.
“He asked me to do it. I couldn't say no. This is my alma mater,” said Vargo, who plans to run in next Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon.
“I've biked 22 miles, training for a triathlon. Emily sort of recruited me. It's for a good cause and close to my heart,” Mann said.
Miller's parents, Marcella and Frederick Miller of Export, joined with several dozen neighbors to send off the runners.
Along with the four “Flags of Hope,” the runners and the trucks carried the American, Pennsylvania and Murrysville flags.
Murrysville Mayor Bob Brooks proclaimed April 27 “Flags of Hope” day in Murrysville.
“I want to encourage the citizens to remember the Franklin Regional School District staff, faculty, students and families who were the true heroes on April 9,” Brooks said in a brief ceremony.
State Rep. Eli Evankovich, whose 54th District includes Murrysville, said that despite the tragedy, the community bond remains strong.
“Thank you for your support. Go get it today,” he told the runners.
“God blessed me with the gift of endurance, and I want to give back any way I can,” Miller said.
“I'm very proud of my community. ... We are broken, but not broke,” he said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com.
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