The Rock Recreation Center in Trucksville will raise money for two memorial causes with its Rockathon, scheduled for Sept. 20-22.
The Rock is working on plans for both a POW/MIA Memorial at the base of its driveway and an artificial turf outdoor sports playing field in the name of Matthew Benjamin Rondina, a Kingston Township Raiders youth football player who died at age 13 in 1998 from brain cancer.
A personal athletic challenge from one of Rondina’s friends, a 5K trail run and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, is part of the weekend along with other community activities.
Elijah Miller, development director at Rock Recreation, will attempt to run 54 miles Friday. Rondina wore number 54 as a junior football player and many of the weekend’s events have a connection to that number. There will also be a Watch Fire ceremonial burning from Friday night, Sept. 20 into the following morning in memory of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action soldiers.
The 5K trail run and 3-on-3 basketball tournaments are scheduled for Sept. 21 when live music and food and craft vendors are also planned to create a carnival atmosphere at Rock Recreation. Related basketball activities, including a two-hour camp that is included with registration in the tournament, continue Sept 22.
Miller, 27, is a Dallas and Penn State graduate currently pursuing his MBA at The University of Scranton.
During his days as a high school football player with the Mountaineers, he always played with the number 54 written on his arm to remember his friend and former junior football teammate. His latest effort to honor Rondina’s memory is the “strong run” in which he plans to cover a mile at a time and complete each mile with 10 pull-ups.
“Basically, my goal is within a 12-hour period to run 54 miles and do 540 pull-ups,” Miller said.
Miller has run up to 25 miles in training efforts.
“Usually, when you train for something like this, you do 50 to 75 percent of the goal in training,” Miller said. “Then, you try to let heart and adrenaline take care of the rest.”
Miller is trying to call attention to fundraising efforts for the Matthew Benjamin Rondina Memorial Sports Field. He said the total project, including site preparation and bleachers next to the field, will cost close to $1 million and the non-profit organization has progressed about $175,000 toward that goal.
Plans call for Rondina’s number 54 to be stitched into the turf in the middle of the field, which would become the new home of the Kingston Township Raiders.
“It would be a community field,” Miller said. “Rock Rec sports and camps, Kingston Township Raiders football and all other types of sports and camps would use it.”
Miller said the field would be lined for multiple sports.
The POW/MIA activities are part of being patriotic and putting country above community, according to Miller.
Former Korean War POW Fred Searles and Debra Kay Anderson, the daughter of an MIA U.S. Air Force pilot, will be the guest speakers at a Watch Fire Service. The Watch Fire will be built at dusk and continue to burn until dawn and will be the center of music, prayer and other activities for veterans organizations.
“It’s also an honorable flag burning night where, if people want to come from the community and honorably get rid of an old flag, they can,” Miller said. “ … People can stop and pray for troops, share their stories, that kind of thing.”
The 5K run will include different physical challenges. After the first 1K (six-tenths of a mile) loop at Rock Recreation, competitors will do 54 push-ups. They will do 54 sit-ups after the second, 54 jumping jacks after the third and 54 mountain climbers after the fourth.
The top male and female finishers will receive a one-year membership to the Rock Rec Center and Valley Tennis & Swim Club.
Entry forms for the 5K trail run and 3-on-3 basketball are available at rockrec.org where there are also videos explaining the events.
Miller also wrote and recorded a song “54 Soldiers” in which 70 cents of every 99 cent fee paid for an I-Tunes download will go directly to the two fundraisers.