It was billed as a 5-kilometer road race, but also could be considered a spiritual relay of sorts.
When some 184 runners set forth in Ithaca on Feb. 17, they were taking a symbolic baton of community service passed on to them by Pete Wadach.
Wadach was an avid runner — at one point in his life he ran every day for five years straight — and active volunteer before his sudden death last Easter Sunday at age 49. To honor his memory, the first-ever “Run! for Pete’s Sake” took place at Ithaca High School. It was held under blue skies despite considerable snow and cold earlier in the week.
“We had a spectacular day,” said Chris Kimball, a race organizer.
Kimball noted that the number of entrants swelled to 184 after only 106 had been registered by the previous night.
“We thought we might get 20 or 25 more on the day of the race, but people kept coming,” she said.
To top things off, the first-place finisher was none other than Wadach’s son Kellen, 25, who completed the course in 17 minutes, 54 seconds.
The run’s organizing committee is made up of family members and close friends, many of whom are fellow members of Wadach’s parish, St. Catherine of Siena. According to Kimball, Run! for Pete’s Sake will hopefully become an annual event, tied in with the popular Great Chili Cookoff that occurred Feb. 17 in Ithaca as well.
The 5K race, held in conjunction with the City of Ithaca, raised approximately $8,500. Proceeds will benefit the “Many Hands Foundation — the Peter D. Wadach Memorial Fund,” which has been established through the Community Foundation of Tompkins County. This fund is designed to encourage others, through the awarding of scholarships and stipends, to become more involved in community endeavors.
“The idea for the fund came about because of Pete’s commitment to community service during his life and the plans he was making to retire from insurance in the near future and involve himself with service projects on a larger scale. We wanted a mechanism to fulfill his wishes,” said Wadach’s wife, Jodi.
Wadach died on April 16, 2006, while running as he vacationed with his family in Seabrook Island, S.C.
“Pete was simply an extraordinary individual and a huge loss to the community,” said Sister Mary O’Brien, CSJ, pastoral associate at St. Catherine of Siena.
Wadach was a partner in The Carey McKinney Group and had been in the insurance business for nearly three decades. He was involved in such organizations as Rotary and YMCA, and also busied himself in athletics as a coach and volunteer. His immense energy and enthusiasm were evident at St. Catherine of Siena Parish as well, according to Kimball, a fellow parishioner.
“Pete was received into the church six years ago, and was an immediate presence at many levels at St. Catherine’s,” said Kimball, who is a close friend of the Wadach family along with her husband, Michael.
Sister O’Brien said Wadach’s parish roles — all in the same year — were hospitality minister; lector; extraordinary minister of holy Communion; parish pastoral-council member; stewardship-committee chair; pastoral-council liaison for the finance council; and member of a weekly men’s small Christian community.
“Paul’s Letter to Timothy is perfect for Pete. ‘I have run the race. I have kept the faith.’ Did he ever,” Sister O’Brien remarked.
EDITORS’ NOTE: Contributions to the Peter D. Wadach Memorial Fund may be made to the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, 309 N. Aurora St., Ithaca, NY 14850. Note the fund’s name on the memo line. For information on the race, visit runforpete@google pages.com.