Race memorializes special young lady - Catholic Courier

Race memorializes special young lady

Being that it was a first-time event, Christina Amisano had modest hopes for the success of a road race paying tribute to her deceased daughter.

“A reasonable amount to look at was 150, 175 (entrants),” she said.

Well, that number was quickly left in the dust. By the time the “Live Like Liz” 5-kilometer run and 1-mile walk got under way on June 11, approximately 450 people had registered and many more were on hand as volunteers and supporters.

The event’s success was a stirring tribute to a young woman who touched many people in her short life. Elizabeth Amisano died Oct. 12, 2005, after battling ovarian cancer for two years. She was 20 years old.

“Nothing short of magnificent,” Ms. Amisano’s father, Denis, said of the race turnout. He and his wife observed that many participants had been moved by their daughter’s infectious personality and notable spirituality.

“They were happy to be involved for her, to honor her,” Denis said. “It basically comforted us in that she’s still affecting people.”

“She was a loving person, and the love still shines through,” Christina added.

Speaking of shining, the weather that morning was cool and sunny — excellent conditions for running.

“It was a beautiful day, perfect for it,” Denis said.

The “Live Like Liz” race was held along the Catharine Valley Trail in Montour Falls, Schuyler County. It was organized by the Watkins Glen High School track and field team, with coach Marie Fitzsimmons taking a lead role.

Ms. Amisano graduated from Watkins Glen in 2003. She took part not only in track, but also in basketball and swimming. As a senior, she was captain of the undefeated swim team. Ms. Amisano also was highly active at St. Mary of the Lake Church in Watkins Glen and in diocesan youth retreats and conventions.

Following graduation Ms. Amisano enrolled at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where she was pursuing a major in psychology. Her cancer was discovered in November 2003, and a month later she underwent surgery. Over the next two years she endured three additional surgeries and numerous chemotherapy treatments. She briefly returned to college in early 2005, but the disease took her life later that year.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer of the ovaries ranks fifth as the cause of cancer death in women, with a total of more than 20,000 new cases and 15,300 deaths expected to occur in the United States in 2006. The chance of getting ovarian cancer during a woman’s lifetime is about 1 in 58.

Proceeds from the June 11 race are being put toward the Elizabeth Amisano Ovarian Cancer Education Fund. Administered by the Community Foundation of the Elmira-Corning Area, the fund is designed to raise awareness of ovarian cancer while also helping toward family support care and scholarships.

Efforts such as the “Live Like Liz” competition help soften some of the tragedy surrounding Ms. Amisano’s death.

“Everything went so well, so smoothly. It was very well throughout and planned,” Christina said.

Her husband added that people at the race were talking about making this an annual event. The Amisanos also noted the outpouring of help from area fire and police departments — and that instead of having to solicit sponsors, organizers had numerous businesses approach them about getting involved.

Father Paul Bonacci, pastor of Schuyler Catholic Community and presider at Ms. Amisano’s funeral Mass last October, “did a wonderful speech” on race day, Denis said. To top things off, all three of Ms. Amisano’s siblings took part in the competition: brother D.J., 23, and sister Margaret Mary, 16, were runners, and sister Michelle, 19, was a walker.

“It was held on her brother’s birthday, and he said it was the nicest birthday present he ever had,” Christina said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Donations to the Community Foundation of the Elmira-Corning Area, specifying the Elizabeth Amisano Fund (or Live Like Liz Fund), can be mailed to Live Like Liz Inc., P.O. Box 434, Watkins Glen, NY 14891.

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