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Annual TakeOff memorial race on track for Saturday in Unity

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec
Pennsylvania State Trooper Kenton Iwaniec

Six years have passed since the life of a Cook Township man was lost because of the bad decisions made by an impaired driver.

Since that time, Kenton Iwaniec's family and friends have dedicated themselves to finding meaning in his death, honoring his life and preventing others from the grief they have endured.

On Saturday, the fifth TakeOff: Honor the Past, Shape the Future Memorial Race/Walk will be held at St. Vincent College in Unity.

“TakeOff is a race to honor DUI victims, raise awareness about the seriousness of impaired driving and encourage the community to have a positive influence in the reduction of impaired driving,” said Debby Iwaniec, Kenton's mother.

State police said Kristina M. Quercetti, then 40, of Landenburg was under the influence of oxycodone when she was driving without headlights, speeding and traveling in the wrong direction on Route 41 in London Grove Township. Quercetti had her 5-year-old son in the back seat in the accident that killed Iwaniec, 24, a 2007 graduate of St. Vincent College who was assigned to Troop J in the Avondale Barracks in Chester County. She was sentenced to serve from 8 12 to 17 years in prison for taking the trooper's life and endangering the life of her child.

The Iwaniecs stress the importance of responsible choices as an effective and simple way to reduce DUIs. That is why they are committed to raise funding to provide Breathalyzers (preliminary breath test devices) for Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

In 2008, they established the Trooper Kenton Iwaniec Memorial Foundation.

Since 2009, the Iwaniecs, with the help of the community, have purchased more than 500 portable Breathalyzer units.

“Last year, we gave away 190 units and our goal for 2014 is 250,” said Iwaniec. “The need is definitely there. Almost daily, we receive a PBT application.”

Conducting the event on the campus of St. Vincent provides the family with an added opportunity to reach out to college students to make them aware of the impact of their decisions.

“We want students to make the right choice and never drive impaired. The race is a great way to help bring that message to the St. Vincent College campus,” said Trooper Iwaniec's sister, Acacia Houck.

Houck is a teacher in the Greater Latrobe School District. Her mother teaches in the Yough School District.

“Our jobs as educators go beyond the most common academic experiences. We need to remember that we also need to help create responsible, productive citizens,” said Houck. “We can serve as role models for students; help teach them to make the right choices as they go through life and to think beyond themselves and how they can impact the world.”

Race details listed

Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly will again serve as master of ceremonies.

Race day events include a 5K/10K run, 1-mile fun walk and a 5K fun walk. Children's events include a 100-meter sprint for ages 6 and under and a ½-mile run for ages 10 and under.

Registration is 7 to 8:30 a.m. at the Fred Rogers Center on the college campus. Registration fee is $30 for adults, $20 for ages 10 and under.

The opening ceremony will begin at 8:40 a.m. The race begins at 9 a.m. for the children's races. The 5K/10K run and 1-mile walk begins at 9:15 a.m.

Medals will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers overall, the top three law enforcement officers overall and in age groups 14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60+ in the 5K run and 10K run. The top three teams overall will receive medals. Teams must have a minimum of five members. Teams with more than five members will have the top five finishers counted for their team score.

An award will be given to the team with the most participants in any walking or running event.

All participants will receive an award in the children's races.

Chinese and silent auctions will be held, along with educational and interactive activities.

“The Pirates Charity donated a game day luxury suite and we decide to use it as an incentive to secure pledges,” said Iwaniec. “Our goal is to earn $20,000 in pledge money.”

The top pledge collector will receive 19 tickets for the suite and four parking tickets, valued at $3,500, food and a visit from the Pirates Parrot.

The family is scheduled to distribute one Breathalyzer unit to each of the 88 state police stations this year and an additional 20 will go to DUI task force units. They will distribute 100 units at the race Saturday.

The family recently began speaking for the Westmoreland County Parole Department. They provide victim- impact statements to DUI offenders.

“We all have the responsibility to improve our world; to leave it a better place than we found it. We want everyone to understand the dangers of impaired driving and to have the courage to stand up and do the right thing in difficult situations,” said Houck.

For additional information, call Ken and Debby Iwaniec at 724-593-2520 or email to

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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