Running Strong: Planners Prepare for 15th Panerathon

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The 2024 Panerathon will mark the 15th year for the event that has been described as the largest community fundraising event in the Mahoning Valley, and the event’s organizers are working toward increasing participation, contributions and having people stick around after the walking/running events are over.  

This year’s Panerathon will take place Aug. 25 at the Covelli Centre and again consist of a 10-kilometer walk/run, a 2-mile event and a kids run. Online registration is open for the annual event, which raises money for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.

The event is sponsored by Covelli Enterprises in Warren, the largest franchisee of the Panera Bread bakery-café chain.

The first Panerathion had 3,000 participants, said Danielle Covelli, marketing director for Covelli Enterprises. Last year, the event had more than 7,500 participants, with possibly a total of 11,000 participants, spectators and supporters on-site the day of the event.

“Panerathon is very special in that it brings together so many organizations and businesses that each hold an important role in the event’s success,” said Sarah Dubos, Panerathon race director for JAC Management Group and JAC Live. JAC manages the city-owned Covelli Centre.

According to Candice Madden, grant manager and Panerathon coordinator for Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley, planning for the following year’s event starts the week after that year’s event is over.

“Especially with this being our 15th year, it’s kind of monumental for us in terms of having an event in our community that continues to grow in terms of participation but also sponsors in the community who are contributing their support to the cause,” Madden said.

Presenting Panerathon for the 15th year “means a lot to us” at Covelli Enterprises, Covelli said. The breast cancer mortality rate in the Mahoning Valley makes it a “very important cause for our area.”

Last year’s Panerathonn raised just over $600,000, Madden reported. This year the event is poised to exceed that, with the sponsorship deadline just over a month away. “The goal is always to raise as much money as we can to support the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center, knowing that these dollars stay local and truly impact the women in our community,” she said.  

Over the years, the event has raised more than $4.5 million, Covelli said. This year’s event also will feature a new $15,000 Pink sapphire sponsorship level.

People in the Valley “always support everything we do. Any fundraising initiatives we do they just get fully behind,” Covelli added. “We owe all the success of the Panerathon to the residents of the Mahoning Valley.”

Since the Abdu Center’s opening in 2011, more than 150,000 exams have been performed there, Madden said. The center also operates satellite locations in Poland and Columbiana. In addition, funds raised by Panerathon in 2016 went toward purchasing the Joanie-on-the-Go mobile mammography unit, which services 26 locations in the tri-county area each month.

“Just having those resources in place has been so important for the Mahoning Valley,” Covelli said. Women can not only get exams and “world-class treatment” at the center but the mobile unit can reach women who don’t have access to transportation to get to the Youngstown center.

The Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center’s mobile mammography unit services 26 locations in the tri-county area each month.

This year’s event will feature a few changes, according to the organizers.

The Pink Ribbon area will provide upgraded space for cancer survivors and individuals undergoing treatment, Madden said. It will include a lounge area with “a lot more amenities,” according to Covelli.

Another addition for 2024 is entertainment on the course, provided by a local band, Madame Marlowe, which will perform during the 10K.  

As in past years, event sponsors will be invited to have displays on-site, Madden said. Additionally, PNC Bank will sponsor the kids area and have its Grow Up Great mobile unit on-site. The Ohio State University Extension 4-H program also will have a mobile unit on-site for the first time that will provide “an interactive opportunity for kids to learn about planting and other activities,” she said.

The Joanie on the Go mobile unit also will be on-site for tours and for attendees to speak with nurse navigators and the manager of the Abdu Center, Madden said. Information will be provided about other programs and services offered by Mercy Health, which operates St. Elizabeth and the Abdu Center. 

O’Charley’s, another restaurant chain that Covelli Enterprises operates restaurants for, will be on-site offering food for a $5 donation, Madden said.

“Panerathon’s footprint in the Covelli Centre parking lot continues to grow each year.,” Dubos said. “This year we are looking to expand even further with additions to the kids area and adding more on-site entertainment.”

“We’re hoping to have some additional entertainment this year after the 2-mile and 10K are complete,” she said. “We’re encouraging people to hang around.”

Madden works with a small team to plan the event, “which means we rely heavily on support from the community in a volunteer capacity,” she said. About 200 volunteers assist throughout the year, but primarily just before the event when they help with stuffing bags, packet pickup and preparing the parking lot area for the event to take place.

Panerathon wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, many of whom have been with the event from the very beginning, Dubos said.

“Each year we have had more and more organizations getting involved in deeper ways and taking on parts of the event as their own,” she said. “It is their dedication and assistance that allows the event to grow and gives us the space to look for new ways to improve the event each year.”

Pictured at top: Participants in a previous Panerathon.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.