About the walk, OD, and organizers
OD may have only lived until age 19 from Jan. 12, 1984 to Dec. 4, 2003, but his legacy lives on through scholarships funds raised during this past weekend's 3.1-mile walk.
"There's no special reason for the 25th," his aunt and the event's organizer, Karen Mahon, said. "It's a nice time of year for the event."
A three-season athlete, OD was on the varisty wrestling team, the varsity football team, and the junior varsity baseball team at LHS. Since he visited the school from time to time after graduation, the walk began and ended at Lynnfield High School.
All proceeds will benefit the John M. O'Donnell Memorial Scholarship Fund. A scholarship will go towards a student who writes an essay on overcoming life obstacles. In addition, another scholarship, called OD's True Pioneer Scholarship, is primarily an athletic scholarship awarded to two seniors (generally a male and female) who demonstrate true pioneer spirit in team sports.
Age divisions in OD's run/walk ranged from under 12 to over 70 years of age, with male and female winners, for first, second and third place, in each category. According to Mahon, medals are given to the top 3 in each divison, and trophies are awarded to the top male/female overall. All 100 walkers and/or 300 runners complete the race.
"Not all participants knew Johnny," Mahon told Lynnfield Patch. "Although many participants are connected as family or friends, the road race draws a number of outside participants from the community who come to compete in the professionally timed race. A significant number of LHS students also show to run/walk and/or volunteer."
Sponsors include: Tony's Pub on Franklin Street in Lynn, Prince Pizzeria on Route One in Saugus, Marathon Sports: The Run-Walk Store, and Frank Michael's Hair Salon, Inc. on Richardson Street in Wakefield. Mahon noted sponsoring organizations defray race-related costs such as: the timing company, T-shirts, food/water, insurance, and awards, as this run/walk is the only event to raise money for the scholarship fund.
T-shirts were given to the first 150 pre-registrants, with a registration fee of about $20. Runners were professionally timed by Cool Running. Before the race, they bought raffle tickets, with prizes ranging from Patriots vs. Colts tickets, to Prince Pizzeria Giggles comedy show tickets, to a Capitol Dinner gift card, and listened to a DJ, which played country and top 40 hits.
OD's father, John O'Donnell, of Lynnfield, explained the race is official with police, firefighters, EMTs, and even the DPW there.
"It's getting bigger and bigger every year," O'Donnell told Lynnfield Patch. "There are runners here from every New England state, and they can use their time to log into to do another race. It's become more runners than walkers over the years."
He thanked the LHS track team for their support, especially since they have a meet tomorrow.
About the runners
For Kip Sanford and his family, of Lynnfield, this race will be an annual event. He and his family members, ranging from age 13-46, ran this morning. He, and one of his sons, Jack, won in their respective divisons.
"First of all, it's a good cause." Sanford, who didn't know OD personally, said. "There have been posted signs around Lynnfield, and it's a good family event. It's a nice way to spend the morning, because it's a short race, and it's over pretty quickly."
But for people who don't run a couple times a week, like he does, 3.1-miles is strenous. It all depends who you ask.
His family members have various training regiments -- with a goal of 20-25 minutes.
They didn't buy raffle tickets. "We showed up with nothing but iPods, and will walk home," he stated.
Similarly, Nathan Scarpaci, of Billerica, won in his age divison, and didn't know OD personally; he heard about the race through his friend John, an organizer.
He runs daily, and this time is his second year, also participating in 2009.
"It's pretty easy, other than the hill near here [the high school]," he explained. "
He aimed for 21-25 minutes along with his brother, Jarett Scarpaci, also of Billerica.
The course formally covered the high school cross country route, a 2.75-mile run. The route was later changed to create a traditional 5K run (3.1 miles). Runners turned left onto Essex Street from the high school, took a right onto Oxbow Road and continued on a couple different roads throughout The Grant and eventually came back to Essex Street via Midland Road.
About the walkers
Brendon Davis, of Lynn, who knew OD from Sacred Heart Grammar School in Lynn, walked the race in his friend's memory, only missing one year out of the past seven years.
"He was a good guy," Davis said. "At first, he was a shy kid but as he grew up, he talked to people, and was willing to help others."
Davis was shocked to learn about his passing, as they were the same age.
"Runners go first, and are timed. The walkers aren't timed, and there aren't any prizes for walkers in the male or female age groups. They're behind the end of the start line."
On the other hand, Melissa Shea, and Shannon Gilligan, both of Somerville, knew OD through a mutual friend, and it was their first time.
Walking at a medium pace, it will take them 45 minutes. Gilligan runs reguarly, but Shea doesn't.
"We're just walking today, because talking will be easier," she said.
They may buy raffle tickets.
For information, visit http://odsrunwalk.weebly.com/index.html, or call aunt Karen Mahon at 1-508-528-1286.