"Miles For Mike 5K" Hits Home With Career Center Staff

"Miles for Mike" Hits Home With Career Center Staff

"Miles For Mike 5K" Hits Home With Career Center Staff

Sat, Jun 18th, 2016

By: Janell Hunter, Shadyside Festival Kicks Off Friday
The Times Leader

The fourth annual Miles for Mike 5K took place on Friday, June 18, as part of the Shadyside Loop Fest.

Miles for Mike was created in honor of Melissa Karkowski's husband, who died from post-traumatic stress disorder-related suicide.

Melissa's husband, Sgt. Mike Karkowski, was an army veteran whose unit did combat support for a hospital in Kabul during fighting in Afghanistan. His primary job was to care for the orphans of the war effort.

"As a wife, I couldn't help but know about the countless children my husband watched die. Like many soldiers, he was traumatized. The war locked his mind into a dark cycle of irritation, rage and depression from which he never returned," Karkowski said.

Karkowski lost her husband on July 15, 2009. She decided later that she wanted to get healthy for her children, and contacted the ABC television show "Extreme Weight Loss." She explained to them that she had sponsored a runner in the "Army 10-Miler" race in Washington, D.C. in honor of her late husband, but that her real goal was to run in it herself.

The show accepted her, and her show ran in season four. The show suggested that instead of running the Army 10-Miler, she start a special race in honor of her husband and to help raise awareness for PSTD in her hometown of Shadyside. That was the beginning of Miles for Mike.

"This race brings the community and veterans together. There is nothing else like it around here. Veterans just come even if they don't run just to cheer us on with tears in their eyes. It's such a great way to honor Mike's legacy. He was such a good guy," Karkowski said. "PSTD awareness is so important. Twenty-two soldiers take their lives every day due to PSTD."

Miles for Mike raises donations for the Wounded Warrior Project and K-9's for Warriors, as well as for scholarships.

Pictured with Karkowski, left, are fellow staff members from the Belmont Career Center.

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