First LEAF 5K will benefit Lehighton schools
Nathan Lucykanish, Cera Gaston and Anthony Tavella hold their prize peach pies after finishing the first LEAF 5K.
Even with the autumn chill creeping into the air, Carbon County residents turned out to run the first LEAF 5K Saturday morning.
Runners took their mark on the Lehighton High School starting line and made the trek from Indian Way up to Coal Street and back down to the district's new stadium finish line.
More than 24 students, residents, borough workers and the police chief arrived at 8:30 a.m. to help raise funds for the 3-year-old nonprofit organization.
The Lehighton Education and Athletic Foundation was created by Indian alumni as a way to give back to the kindergarten through 12th-graders who are following in the footsteps of the former students.
"It's run by alumni as a way to give back to the staff and community," member Beki Karpowicz said.
According to LEAF President Hugh Dugan, the 11-board-member organization was formed following Tamaqua's Men of Marian's example.
"I saw what they were doing for Marian (Catholic High School) and thought, why not in Lehighton," he said. "We are trying to support the students."
Last year LEAF raised enough funds to award a male and female student each with a $1,000 scholarship last year.
"We provided teachers' grants for things teachers don't have in the classroom and have to pay extra for. Everything raised goes right back to the staff and students," Karpowicz said.
The idea for a 5K spawned from the A in LEAF.
"We'd been looking for ways to raise money and Tim Tkach came up with the idea," said Dugan.
"We thought maybe it's a good idea to do something athletic," Karpowicz said.
The group partnered with Pretzel City Sports of Reading, which supplied the start and finish banners and acted as official time keepers during the marathon. The nonprofit was able to work with seven Carbon County businesses to gain sponsorship for the 3.5 mile race.
"Giant donated peach pies and Lowe's donated the mums for the top finishers in their age class," Dugan said.
Indian cross-country varsity runner and high school junior Anthony Tavella took overall first place with a finishing time of 18.54 minutes.
"It was a good course," he said.
Second-place finisher Nathan Lucykanish agreed, saying, "It's a pretty physically demanding sport."
"We have to thank our coach for training us and getting us through it. This 5K is like a practice for our meets," Tavella said.
Cera Gaston has been running for the female varsity team her entire high school career and said she signed up "to support a local cause. It's a way to get pumped up for homecoming," she said.
After crossing the finishing line, participants enjoyed hot coffee and doughnuts while awaiting the winners to be announced.
"I'm glad the rain held off," Lehighton Police Chief Brian Biechy said.
"It's a really great thing what LEAF is doing for the students. I like coming out to support their programs," he said.
Biechy finished in the top three of his age group.
"It's to benefit the program. I'm just glad to participate," the chief said.
The next event to be hosted by the borough-based group will be a brews and beef dinner in January at the Mahoning Township Ambulance.
LEAF will be working on adding a Distinguished Alumni Dedication Wall inside the newly renovated school building.
"We're proud of the educations we received here and the main goal is to give back to the school and community," Dugan said.
For more information on upcoming fundraisers or to get involved, visit the website www.leaf-foundation.org.