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Memorial event for Justin Leo goes virtual

People register for run challenge in 38 state plus Italy

GIRARD — In memory of slain city police officer Justin Leo, members of the community are coming together — but separately — for a virtual run.

“The Justin Leo Virtual Run Registration Challenge was created due to COVID-19 causing the cancellation of the annual Justin Leo Scholarship Golf Outing. This golf outing serves as the main fundraiser for scholarship funds,” states the event’s Facebook page.

This event was created by Amanda Archer with the help of Girard police Chief John Norman and Justin Leo’s parents, Pat and David.

“I’ve done virtual races earlier in the year and when I found out due to COVID-19 that the golf outing had been canceled, I reached out to the Leos with this idea to help raise money for the scholarship fund in its absence,” Archer said.

The Justin Leo Scholarship has provided more than $60,000 in scholarships to Girard High School students over the past three years and also has donated about $225,000 in scholarships to Youngstown State University. So far this year, $20,000 has been given out to Girard youth.

Leo, 31, was killed Oct. 21, 2018, while responding to a domestic violence call at 408 Indiana Ave. in Girard. Leo died in surgery after being shot in the chest by Jason Marble. Marble was killed when Leo’s partner, Mathew Jamison, returned fire.

“The community has been there for us when we need them. We can never make sense of this but doing this gives us some peace,” David Leo, Justin’s father, said. “This really says a lot about the quality of the people here in Girard.”

Because a virtual race can happen any time, anywhere, the event will last all summer through Labor Day. There are two options for the race: a 5K (3.1 miles) or a 72-mile challenge in honor of Justin’s Badge 324. People can run, walk or bike to complete their miles.

People have been posting “sweaty selfies” along with their progress in the “The Justin Leo Virtual Run Challenge” Facebook group.

“We surpassed 800 registrations … people have registered in 38 states and in Italy,” Leo said. “I’m over 60 miles already because I walk every day, but I’ve gotten some phone calls about people who are going to try to reach 324 miles before Labor Day.”

Although registration closed May 31, Leo said he doesn’t believe the event will turn anyone away.

“We closed registration for those wanting a shirt. You can still donate or register and can use the link on our Facebook page: The Justin Leo Virtual Run Challenge,” Archer said. “We accept checks made payable to The Justin Leo Scholarship Fund c/o Amanda Archer, 1635 Greenwood Ave., Girard OH 44420. Or Venmo, and that is listed on the online registration form.”

bshiller@tribtoday.com

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