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Westmoreland

Trooper Iwaniec race targeting drunken driving adds virtual option

Jeff Himler
| Tuesday, April 3, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
Ken and Debby Iwaniec hold a portrait with of their son Kenton in their Ligonier home on Friday, March 11, 2016. The Iwaniecs lost Kenton, a state trooper, to an impaired driver in 2008 and are now advocating for changes to drunken driving laws in the state through the group Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Drivers.
Tribune-Review
Ken and Debby Iwaniec hold a portrait with of their son Kenton in their Ligonier home on Friday, March 11, 2016. The Iwaniecs lost Kenton, a state trooper, to an impaired driver in 2008 and are now advocating for changes to drunken driving laws in the state through the group Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Drivers.
Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec
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Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec
Acacia Houck of Scottdale remembers her brother, Pennsylvania state Trooper Kenton Iwaniec during the 'TakeOff 2015: Honor the Past, Shape the Future,” fundraising race to raise awareness about impaired driving.
Tribune-Review
Acacia Houck of Scottdale remembers her brother, Pennsylvania state Trooper Kenton Iwaniec during the 'TakeOff 2015: Honor the Past, Shape the Future,” fundraising race to raise awareness about impaired driving.

On March 27, Debby and Ken Iwaniec of Ligonier marked the 10th anniversary of the loss of their son, Kenton — a 24-year-old Pennsylvania state trooper killed in a collision with an intoxicated driver in Chester County.

The couple has kept his memory alive by speaking at drunken-driving awareness programs and by organizing an annual charity race in his honor, which will welcome runners for the ninth year on April 21 at Saint Vincent College in Unity. A virtual version of the race is debuting this year.

“Kenton is always fresh in our heart and in our minds,” Debby Iwaniec said. “Every time we share his story, it creates a new memory for us that we treasure. We've done over 300 speaking engagements and reached over 60,000 people so far.”

To date, the nonprofit foundation the Iwaniecs created in their son's name has raised about $750,000, some of it proceeds from the TakeOff Race and a yearly sporting clay event at Nemacolin Woodlands. That money has provided more than 1,400 preliminary breath test devices to help state and local law enforcement agencies estimate a driver's blood-alcohol concentration and get impaired drivers off the road.

The need for the devices hasn't let up, Debby Iwaniec said, noting that requests from enforcement agencies arrive daily.

“We have 99 applications we are waiting to fill when we get the funds,” she said. “There was one day when we had 11 applications come in.

“The foundation and the race are in Kenton's name, but we do it for all DUI victims, in the hope that other families won't have to deal with an empty seat at the dinner table.”

Sponsoring businesses and in-kind gifts help to make the TakeOff Race a continuing success, she said.

The race — it includes 5K, team, 10K and 1-mile options — attracts more than 700 participants and relies on about 200 volunteers, according to Acacia Houck of Scottdale, a teacher at Greater Latrobe Senior High and one of Kenton's sisters. Others attend as spectators and to join in activities including children's races, auctions and interactive, educational offerings.

Area police agencies will provide K-9 demonstrations, and the Saint Vincent College Prevention Projects will provide goggles that visitors can wear to simulate an impaired state while completing an obstacle course, Houck explained.

“We really try to use the day to honor DUI victims and educate the community about the dangers of impaired driving,” she said.

To accommodate people who have expressed interest in the event but can't attend, planners this year have introduced a virtual race. Houck said those who register at the foundation site , trooperiwaniec.org, can complete their walk or run at an indoor or outdoor location of their choosing through April 28 and will receive the same commemorative medal awarded to all who complete the event at the college.

“They can post their finish time and a picture of them doing the race to our Facebook account if they want,” Houck said. “We're really excited about it. We have people already registered, and we're getting more people in every day.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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