There may be few people who have done as much for the youth of Norwich as Luis DePina. A standout athlete at Norwich Free Academy, he headed the city's recreation department for 25 years.
He began the city's popular summer camp and youth basketball programs and more recently was working to resurrect the closed YMCA as a community center.
While not a runner, he was very active in helping oversee the Norwich Rec Run series in Mohegan Park each summer and the local Hershey track meets.
Veteran Norwich runner and Mohegan Strider Tim Smith of Norwich tells me that DePina used to insist that the rec runs for kids be short and fun, no ribbons or medals.
"I admired that. He felt that was the way we needed to go because everything today is so aggressive and award driven," Smith said.
DePina, who was just 54, died last September after battling a brain tumor. He was married with three children. Shortly after his death, the fields at the corner of Reynolds and Mohegan roads that he oversaw for so many years, were named in his memory.
Now, organizers of the annual one-mile Youth Festival Road Race scheduled for 1 p.m. June 23 at the Taftville Congregational Church, have renamed the event in honor of DePina.
"I've known Lou for more than 20 years and everything he did was directed towards the betterment of the children of the city of Norwich," said race director Al Phillips Jr.
Proceeds from the race will go to the scholarship fund that has been set up in DePina's memory as well as other youth initiatives. The Mohegan Striders have donated $500 to the scholarship fund.
The one-mile race is part of the three-race Run Amok series that is held at three Norwich area churches each summer. For more information on the race contact Phillips at (860) 449-1314 or (860) 908-6882.
Cookies at Delaney race
To celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, the Mohegan Striders are having students from Norwich Technical High School bake 500 sugar cookies which they will then hand out at the 12th annual Delaney Dash road race. The race is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, May 26, in Old Saybrook.
The baking will be overseen by chef Mario Longo, a culinary arts instructor at the school who is also a runner and coaches the Post University cross country team.
The cookies, which will have "40" written on them, will be given out after the 4-mile race that begins in front of the Saybrook Point Inn. There is also a 1.6-mile walk and a 1/3-mile kids' fun run.
Race proceeds benefit a scholarship fund in memory of the late Sean Delaney, which goes to students who graduate from Old Saybrook High School. Applications are available at www.snerro.com.
Also speaking of the Striders, they just donated $500 to the effort to erect a stature of the late John Kelley in Mystic.
On the schedule
• The 2012 Riverfront Run, a certified 5K, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday beginning at Eastern Point Beach in Groton. This is a certified 3.4-mile course.
• The Quaker Hill 5K Challenge will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Quaker Hill School. You can register and get more information at www.qh5k.com.
• The North Stonington Education Foundation's Runners and Walkers In Support of Education 5K road race, 2-mile fitness walk & kids' fun runs will be held May 26 beginning at 9:45 a.m. at the North Stonington Grange on Wyassup Road. For more information, call race director Bob Lohmann at (860) 889-5543.
• The annual 2.8-mile Bearathon Road Race will be held at 10 a.m. May 28 beginning at the Mystic branch of the Ocean Community YMCA. More information is at www.stoningtonhigh.org.
Joe Wojtas is The Day's running columnist.