By Sean Barron
Greg Delost fondly recalled having been in a 26.2-mile cross-country marathon on a cold winter day in Columbus, which also featured the warmth of a complementary one-woman cheering section.
“She was cheering us on. She didn’t have to be there in the 10- or 20-degree weather in January, but that was the kind of person she was. And that was the last time I saw her,” said Delost, remembering Caitlin Yager, who was killed in a two-car accident Dec. 26, 2013, on an icy road near Norwalk, Ohio. She was 19.
Her parents, Richard and Carol Yager, and her brother, Matthew, suffered serious injuries in the crash and were taken to a Cleveland hospital.
The Delost and Yager families are close friends.
At the time of the crash, Caitlin was a Marietta College sophomore majoring in history and land/energy management.
In their own way, close to 300 of Caitlin’s loved ones, friends, classmates, teachers and others were cheering on the example she had set and the legacy she left by participating in the fourth annual Run for Caitlin on Saturday morning, which began at Canfield High School on Cardinal Drive.
Funds raised by the 3K and 8K charitable walk and run go toward educational scholarships for eight local eighth-graders to attend Cardinal Mooney High School. Caitlin was a 2012 Mooney graduate.
Caitlin, who ran on the cross-country and track teams at Mooney and Marietta College, was someone who enjoyed performing random acts of kindness, recalled Delost, an event co-founder with his brother, Mike Delost. She also loved to bake chocolate-chip cookies as a member of her college’s Sigma Kappa Sorority and donate the proceeds to those less fortunate, he continued.
She also didn’t hesitate to express her appreciation to those who were kind to her. On one occasion, Caitlin sent a thank-you note to a peer mentor for something he had done for her two months earlier, Richard Yager recalled.
“She was the type of person who sent thank-you notes every day for the simplest things,” her father said.
During her freshman year in college, Caitlin went to New Orleans on behalf of Habitat for Humanity Inc. to help paint houses, some of which had been damaged during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A month after the accident, she was to have gone to Nicaragua, Richard continued.
Her baking acumen, generous nature and philanthropic ways also were felt on the college campus, recalled Kennedy Clyde of Chagrin Falls and Margaret Price of Cleveland, both of whom met Caitlin after joining her sorority.
“We’re so glad to keep her legacy going,” said Price, who noted that a scholarship in Caitlin’s name also was set up at Marietta College to allow students to perform community-service projects abroad.
Last year, a student went to Nicaragua for that purpose, courtesy of the scholarship, said Price, who graduated from the college in 2016.
“She was so charismatic, energetic and caring,” added Clyde, a fellow 2016 grad who recalled Caitlin’s penchant for baking pecan pies while often experimenting with new recipes. “It’s amazing how impactful she can be to our campus, even a few years later.”
The three friends also shared a love for alternative music, which took them to the annual Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago. The popular English singer Ellie Goulding was one of their favorite performers, Clyde added.
Caitlin also represented Face to Face and Faith to Faith, two faith-based organizations that made it possible for 16 children from Ireland, Israel, the U.S. and South Africa to go to New York City, noted her mother, Carol Yager.
Also, virtual races in Caitlin’s memory were taking place in Virginia and Florida at the same time as Saturday’s event, Carol added.
“Her drive and passion defined everything she set out to do,” said Matt Yager, who fondly recalled having accompanied his sister on runs through Mill Creek MetroParks. “If she put her mind to something, it was getting done.”
The main thrust behind the yearly Run for Caitlin events is to keep her legacy and spirit alive while trying to continue something good, borne of a tragedy, he said.
“We’ve tried to turn a negative to a positive and continue in her name,” Matt added. “We want to give back to the community and honor her memory.”