Lashutka Spirit Award


The program honors former Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka, who helped launch the Columbus Marathon in 1980.

“The Lashutka Spirit Award is a way for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon to recognize individuals who inspire and embody perseverance and strength. They are a testament to our sport and this event and it’s always an incredible privilege to celebrate them and their accomplishments.” – Darris Blackford, Race Director.



2019 Lashutka Spirit Award Winners


Michael Groves, Dublin, Ohio

In January 2019, Michael Groves set out on a life changing journey toward better health. He, along with his wife who is employed by Nationwide Children's Hospital, dedicated themselves to living a healthier lifestyle. Michael overhauled his eating habits and was quickly able to begin losing weight. With less weight, his long-term knee pain that had kept him from high impact exercises began to resolve. He started running, something he never thought he would achieve. So far this year, Michael has managed to lose more than 100 pounds in his endeavor and has increased his running distance and frequency. He ran his first 5K race earlier this year and dedicated himself to completing the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus ½ Marathon. This will be Michael's first half marathon.


Michele Haines, Greenfield, Ohio

In May 2018, Michele was diagnosed with lung cancer. Two weeks later, doctors at The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute performed an upper right lobectomy on her lung.  After a year of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, Michele is training for her first big run since her diagnosis – the 2019 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus 1/2 Marathon. 


Mari Fridenmaker, Columbus, Ohio

Mari’s life took a drastic turn when one day her dog accidentally scratched her eye when they were playing on the floor together. The scratch resulted in an infection from a parasite that lives in soil and water.  After many months of medical treatment, Mari received a cornea transplant. This motivated Mari to get healthy and start competing in triathlons and running races. She just completed the Ohio 70.3 Half Iron Man in Delaware, Ohio, and will be running the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus ½ Marathon.  She has also competed in Donate Life's Transplant Games of America where she has won several medals in swimming, cycling and running events. Mari also volunteers with Lifeline of Ohio sharing her story with high school students and attending other events to promote organ, eye and tissue donation.


Mark Mitchell, Gahanna, Ohio

Mark Mitchell has been a Nationwide Children's Hospital patient since 2007, diagnosed with Autism at the age of three and Mitochondrial Disease at the age eight. Despite his daily developmental and physical challenges, he offers encouragement to other runners and volunteers while training, racing or helping to raise funds for Nationwide Children’s Hospital at charity events.  Mark has been training for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus ½ Marathon with Team Heart & Sole for the past year, completing nearly 12 scheduled races, including a duathlon.


Shelley Leone, Columbus, Ohio

Shelley is a recovering addict who has used running to fuel the positive changes in her life.  Shelley has transformed herself one mile at a time and has decided to take the transformation beyond just her own journey. In August 2019, Shelley started a Columbus-based running club – Recovery Run Club –for other recovering addicts to share their own stories on the run.  Shelley has also lost more than 70 pounds in the process. 



Karen White, Columbus, Ohio

Karen took up running after her beloved sister and friend passed in 2009 from a brain tumor. Karen soon discovered running helped with her healing process. She enjoyed running so much that she began to take part in many running events throughout Ohio, including her first Columbus Marathon in 2012 at the age of 48. The following year, she endured a meniscus injury while training. She began training again but was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The diagnosis didn’t stop Karen as she continues to train for the 2019 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus ½ Marathon.


Danielle Levesque (Columbus, Ohio) and Heather Turner (Gahanna, Ohio)

Danielle and Heather, special education teachers and friends, created Mind over Miles for athletes from the Special Olympics to participate in a unified event with other members of the Columbus community. First established as Team Finish Line (TFL), the initiative kicked off in April 2018 in partnership with Special Olympics Ohio. The team of 11 athletes trained for 6 months and participated in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon on October 21, 2018. For the 2019 season, the group now known as Mind over Miles has expanded to a team of 13 athletes with a specific mission in mind:  give athletes with disabilities the opportunity to train for, participate in, and complete a marathon by providing access through reasonable accommodations. 

Matt Manivilovski, Columbus, Ohio

Matt, now 13 years old, was a Patient Champion in 2017. Matt and his brother Nick were playing in the woods, like they always did, but this time, Nick accidentally speared Matt in the head with a stick. Matt began to experience a loss of feeling and use of the right side of his body. His family rushed him to the Emergency Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where imaging revealed that Matt’s skull had been fractured and his brain had been impacted. Matt had an emergency craniotomy. Today, Matt is thriving and he and his brother are running the Nationwide Children’s Hospital ½ Marathon together to celebrate his recovery.


Rose Smith, Bellefontaine, Ohio

In October 2017, Rose felt called to explore donating her kidney -- and she was particularly called to donate to a child. She went through the long medical process to make sure she could do so and finally was matched with a 4-year-old boy named Levi who had end-stage Renal Disease. In January 2019, without hesitation, Rose went through the surgery and gave her kidney to Levi, truly saving his life. Levi is will be a Patient Champion during the 2019 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon.


Dave Parsons, Mount Vernon, Ohio

In February 2018, Dave was involved in a car accident while driving to New Albany for his morning run when a distracted driver hit him head on, trapping him in his car.  The accident resulted in a broken left foot which required surgery with a plate and screws to repair.  He began running again the following August. It has been a slow process to try to return to his form prior to the accident (when he ran a 3:18 at Warm Up Columbus just two weeks prior to the accident), but he continues to improve and  is currently training to run the full marathon at this year’s 40th anniversary event.

The Road Beyond

$10 Million


Nationwide Children’s Hospital is honored to be the title beneficiary for the Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon. 2020 marks the ninth year

of this partnership; so far more than $10 million has been raised for the Hospital.  This includes more than $1 million contributed since 2012 by the Columbus Marathon Board of Directors.


While this year looks a lot different, you can still help us on the road beyond $10 million by participating in the Meaningful Miles Challenge.  Fundraise for the hospital while committing to 13 or 26 Meaningful Miles challenges to make a difference in your community.  Feel great knowing YOU are helping each patient, plus get some awesome incentives for yourself!  Click HERE to register! 

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