hundreds participate in fundraising event in memory of crash victim
By Sean Barron
A single blog post that Caitlin Yager wrote goes a long way toward capturing one of her ambitions — along with her desire to expand her world by understanding more about the bigger picture.
“In just over a month, I will leave the U.S. to study abroad in St. Petersburg [Russia],” she wrote Dec. 19, 2013. “I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to immerse myself in a radically different culture with other American students. I am filled with joy …”
One week later, however, the Marietta College sophomore’s goals were cut short when she was killed in a car accident Dec. 26 on U.S. Route 20 near Norwalk at age 19. The accident also injured her parents, Richard and Carol Yager, and her brother, Matt Yager.
On Saturday, however, her family members saw firsthand the impact Caitlin had on others because 469 people of all ages registered for the inaugural Run for Caitlin 8-kilometer and 3-kilometer run and walk at Canfield High School on Cardinal Drive.
The fundraiser was to honor Caitlin, a Cardinal Mooney High School graduate who also was on her school’s track and cross-country teams. Proceeds are to go toward scholarships for Mooney students.
The gathering’s main coordinators were Matt Yager, as well as Greg and Mike Delost, longtime friends of Matt’s and Caitlin’s.
“She was a real giving person. She tried to brighten everyone’s day,” Richard recalled.
In keeping with her desire to help others, Caitlin also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity during spring break from Marietta College, where she was majoring in history and land management, was on the cross-country team and had joined the Sigma Kappa sorority.
In her Habitat efforts, she painted and helped refurbish homes in New Orleans and was planning a Habitat-based trip to Nicaragua, her father said.
Also at Marietta, she started an interfaith group and revived a nonpartisan organization called Students for Common Sense, which focused on a variety of issues, Richard continued, adding that Caitlin also intended to enter law school in Russia.
She also had a passion for baking from scratch and giving away items to anyone she wanted to help, Carol remembered.
“Her specialties were chocolate-chip cookies and lemon loaf,” her mother said, adding that Caitlin also enjoyed giving flowers to a neighbor who was battling cancer.
Among those to whom she brought happiness was Annalee Haviland of Worthington, who was her roommate at Marietta.
“She only thought of other people, honestly,” recalled Haviland, who took part in the 8K run. “She loved to write personal notes to the sorority sisters, especially during finals [week].”
Haviland, who’s majoring in athletic training at Marietta, noted that the school had a run March 30 in Caitlin’s honor. About 200 people participated, she added.
Also at Saturday’s event was Stephanie Grube, a Marietta junior and fellow cross-country team member.
“We were good friends and spent a lot of time together,” recalled Grube, who lives in the Mansfield area. “She was so sassy, sarcastic and funny, and I loved that about her.”
On the back of the T-shirts Grube and Haviland wore was one of Caitlin’s favorite quotes: “Steeplechase a dream today,” which is a reference to chasing after one’s dreams and goals.
The gathering also featured live entertainment, commemorative T-shirts and a basket raffle that included “Caitlin Yager’s Recipe Book.”
In addition, a Sigma Kappa member who had learned of Caitlin’s death was sponsoring a similar event in California at the same time as the local gathering, Richard Yager added.