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Strive for 5 Foundation Keeps Mizwicki's Legacy Alive

This nonprofit organization honors the memory of the L-W teen by promoting the qualities that made him special. On Saturday, the foundation will hold its first 5K run/walk to raise money for a scholarship fund in his name.

Go to the R.I.P. Pat Mizwicki page on Facebook, and you'll find a comment from April 11 that illustrates the effect the New Lenox teen had on people.

Mizwiz I may not be the best runner but at that 5k I'm running every inch of it for you buddy I love and miss you so much

That emotional post also embodies that quality in Mizwicki—giving your all, all the time—that still resonates with those who knew him best. It's at the core of the Strive for 5 Foundation, the organization that was created in the wake of when a car struck the freshman while he was practicing with the school's cross-country team in Palos Township.

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In fact, those traits that distinguished Mizwicki, who also was a catcher in the Frankfort Baseball League, run down the side of the foundation's website: Determination. Sportsmanship. Hard work. Friend to everyone. Do your best.

"Those icons were born out of what attributes Pat had," said Terry Cleeland, the nonprofit foundation's president and one of Mizwicki's coaches on the Frankfort Eagles traveling baseball team. , starting at in downtown Frankfort.

"Life can be short, and this is about getting the most out of every day by striving for five more of something, whatever that is," Cleeland added.

Strive for 5 was created when Mizwicki's former baseball coaches over the years met with his family in January to discuss doing something to honor his memory, Cleeland said. In March, the foundation was formed with a mission to recognize area students who exemplify Mizwicki's qualities with college scholarships. Mizwicki's parents came up with the name, five being Mizwicki's baseball number, which he chose in honor of former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench.

"He was just a true student of the game," Cleeland said. "The kid just lived baseball."

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Almost 90 days later, the Strive for 5 organizers are already seeing their efforts come to fruition much faster than they expected. . On Wednesday, May 16, The foundation handed out its first scholarships—$1,000 each to six seniors—at L-W East's awards night. The scholarship is open to East seniors who have played in either the Frankfort Boys Baseball or Frankfort Girls Softball leagues and who exemplify the five traits of the foundation.

Organizers thought they would only be able to give out one scholarship this first year, but the outpouring of support from the school, youth groups and Frankfort and New Lenox residents made it possible to fund six, said Mark Zelenika, the nonprofit's vice president and Mizwicki's former manager on the Eagles. Zelenika presented the scholarships at awards night and spoke about Mizwicki. "It was a very emotional speech, but it went very well."

The overwhelming community support also has benefited the upcoming 5K run/walk. About 500 people have already registered for the first-time event, and the nonprofit expects another 100 to 150 to sign up the day of, Zelenika said. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Zelenika was told the largest turnout for similar run/walks in Frankfort was 320.

"I'm just excited that the community got so behind this," Cleeland said. "I think so many people were looking for an avenue to show support."

"I'm just so proud of what we've done to honor Patrick and memorialize his life," Zelenika added. "This is going to be an annual event ... This isn't going to be a one-year thing. 

"He was such a popular kid," he added. "We didn't realize the profound impact Patrick had on the people who knew him"

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That's been the most impressive part of all of this support for the foundation and its efforts, highlighting another indicator of how many lives this 14-year-old touched in such a short amount of time. Going forward, Cleeland said the foundation wants to give out special T-shirts to kids who are employing the same kind of qualities in their day-to-day lives that Mizwicki did.

"Once we get past this run, we're really going to get into recognizing those kids that are doing good things," he said. "Not necessarily hero stuff but acts of kindness, doing good things in school."

It's a small gesture that would reward those little actions. But it's those little actions that can make the biggest difference in a life. Just ask the commenter on Mizwicki's Facebook wall. Or Cleeland.

"I tell you, I feel like I learn from Pat everyday," he said.

SPECIAL SECTION: Read More Stories About Patrick Mizwicki

The Patrick Mizwicki 5K Run/Walk

When: Saturday, May 19. Check-in is from 8 to 9 a.m., and the race begins at 9 a.m.
Where: Breidert Green in Frankfort
Cost: $25 to register the day of the event.
More info: Go to the Strive for 5 Foundation's website for more information about the run/walk and the nonprofit organization.

 

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