BENWOOD - With less than four months until the Debbie Green Memorial 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia, race director Ron Green is already finding new ways to make this one as special as the previous races.
The race, which is named in memory of his late sister who passed away from leukemia, is entering its 15th year. The event benefits local children who also suffer from leukemia.
''Fifteen years, hard to believe,'' Green said. ''It will be 10 years in Wheeling after spending the first five in Benwood. It's nice to think about all the people we've touched. The good things that have come out of this race from my sister's death has been great. That's what it's all about.
Plans are under way for the 15th annual Debbie Green 5K. Leading the way is, from left, race director Ron Green, and Undo’s sponsors Monica Melko, Beau Catalano, and Herk Sparachane.
''Seeing the people's faces when they cross that finish line, whether it's leukemia or not, the determination at the starting line and that great feeling at the finish line. To see those kids in the Debbie's Dash and the people in the Green Mile that maybe can't do the 5K but just want to be a part of the race.
''The city of Wheeling has been great to us and we are ready to go.''
This year's race will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Wheeling Heritage Port. The race will be starting a half hour earlier than normal to accommodate any weather problems.
''We are due for a good year, weather-wise,'' Green said. ''But that half hour makes a world of difference.''
New to the race this season will be a fireworks display after the race Saturday, sponsored by Undo's and Links for Leukemia.
The most intriguing wrinkle will be prizes given from a random drawing of race entrants:
''We are giving back to the community that has given so much to us over the years,'' Green said. ''That's why we are doing a little bit extra than what we have done in the past.
''Anybody can win; it's a random drawing. We are also giving away bicycles - four, two boys, two girls - donated by Terry Whitecotton. How many kids' races in the country give away bicycles with a $3 entry fee? We want to treat everybody well because of how they have treated us.''
Last year, a little less than 1,600 people signed up and Green is expecting even more, especially if the weather holds up (unlike last year when a number of people that signed up didn't bother to come).
''The sky is the limit for this race,'' Green said. ''Wheeling is a good market for a big event like this with the Ogden race. The Pittsburgh market is growing with the Pittsburgh Marathon and people are seeing what the fit lifestyle can do for them.''
You can register online through 7 p.m. July 31 at www.debbiegreen5k.com.