Running for Mari

June 18th, 2015 10:28 am

First Posted: 3/30/2015

SCRANTON — Some runners do it for the exercise, others for the competition and some for the comaraderie. When 3,000 runners line up to start the Scranton Half Marathon on Saturday, April 12, one small contingent will be doing it for Mari.

Mari Lutz-Delicati, 45, formerly of Clarks Summit, died on June 22, 2014 after a 16-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Mari was a kindergarten and second-grade teacher with a passion for nurturing children, a contagious laugh and the ability to make people feel good about themselves. Family members, some veteran runners and others new to the sport, have banded together to run in her memory and raise money to fight the disease that stole her away.

“Mari could make anyone feel special,” LaRayne Young, Mari’s sister, explained. “She was super-friendly and had a way with children. When she was teaching in a lower income area, for example, she found out some of the kids wouldn’t be visited by the Easter Bunny, so she made baskets for them.”

Young and cousins Harold Newell and Kathleen Haikes, joined with other runners to form their own Team in Training to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society which helps find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

“She was the funniest person I ever met,” Newell said. “She could make you laugh like no one else. We were the same age, really close, cousins who grew up together. I feel like, if more people did this and had done it before, maybe Mari would still be with us.”

Young said she is participating in the event to bring awareness to under-funded diseases.

“I’m not comfortable fundraising,” Young said. “I don’t like asking people for things, but I knew it was something I should do, something I wish I’d done when she was still here to see it. So many people in my life have been affected by Leukemia and Lymphoma but it is an under-funded disease despite its prevalence.”

Each competitor signed up to raise a minimum of $1,200 each through their fundraing webpages and events. The team has done events at Immaculate Conception Church, Court Street Tavern, Backyard Ale House, Olde Brook Inn and Kegs and Eggs at Bar Hill on Parade Day. With approximately 30 members, they support each other through their runs and in their fundraising. When one team member reaches their goal, they start helping their fellow teammates.

The Scranton Half Marathon kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 12 at Memorial Stadium at Scranton High School. The course winds through the Plot section, past the courthouse and onto the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail. The race is sold out at 3,000 participants, having been named the Best Half Marathon in 2014 in the Northeast Region of the United States by Competitor Magazine’s readers. The finish line is back inside Memorial Stadium, for an ending reminiscent of the Olympics.