By Ryan Kaczmarski
Nicholas Rauser was a North Olmsted youth who was the lone fatality in a car accident on Brookpark Road in 2008 at the age of 15.
The Leader Light Foundation, a nonprofit organization, works to keep his memory alive with its fourth-annual 5K run and one-mile walk on June 2 at Bretton Ridge Park, Hot Stove league sponsorships and a scholarship program for graduating seniors who played varsity sports for local high schools.
“He (Rauser) was an amazing athlete, which is why we chose to focus our fundraising on athletes and athletic programs,” said Leader Light Foundation volunteer Heather Riley. “He played baseball almost his whole life and was a great student. He was just the kind of kid where every time you saw him, he was smiling.”
What started as a group of his friends collecting money for the Rauser family ended up as this charitable foundation.
“All the kids at school and his inner circle of friends were devastated – obviously everybody was – and just started collecting money,” Riley said. “No one told them to do it, and Nick’s parents were surprised to receive the money. The show of support really helped them.
“Then they started thinking, ‘What are we going to do with this money; we can’t keep it,’” she added. “The idea for the foundation was born from there.”
This will be the fourth year for the charity 5K run and one-mile walk. The event started with humble beginnings, but has grown exponentially over the last few years.
“The first one was just a couple of hundred people, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger every year,” Riley said. “It’s been mostly word of mouth, I think.”
Last year’s event saw more than 600 participants show up for the race, walk and post-race picnic.
“The city (of North Olmsted) has been unbelievably supportive of the event,” Riley said. “They provide police officers (for traffic control) and they’re actually putting up a huge banner this year, so that should help us increase the numbers. Anything that they can do to help us, they’ve just bent over backwards to do so.”
The foundation also has sponsored multiple Hot Stove teams over the summer, and is looking to continue its support of youth baseball.
“We do work in Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Rocky River and Westlake,” Riley stated. “Those, basically, are the communities that support us, so those are the communities we give back to. Those are the communities in which we are looking to sponsor (teams).”
They are looking to sponsor teams from all age groups, and even sponsor multiple teams in the same division.
“Whomever is in need of some money, we’re more than happy to help out,” Riley said. “We usually sponsor one team from each community, but if we don’t have all the communities covered, we’ll sponsor a couple teams from the same town.
“The reason we do the Hot Stove sponsorship is because this is where Nick got his start in the sport,” she added. “It is a fond memory for his parents.”
Teams needing a sponsor should contact Ursula Rauser at 216-316-7117.
To be eligible for the yearly scholarship, the student must participate on a high school varsity team, be a hard-working athlete and good teammate, and also be nominated by his or her coach.
Preregistration for the 5K run and one-mile walk will be held a few days before the event at Carrabba’s Italian Grill at 25054 Sperry Drive in Westlake. Prerace activities begin at 7:30 a.m. the day of the race. The walk begins at 9 a.m., and the 5K starts at 9:10 a.m.
For more information or to make a donation, go to www.nicholasrauser.com; call Wally Rauser at 216-316-6020; mail to Leader Light Foundation, 28462 Stonegate Circle, Westlake, OH 44145; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.