Mount Airy man to compete in historic Ethiopian humanitarian race -- Gazette.Net


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On the morning of March 7, 2009, Elizabeth Durante, 20, a Connecticut College student, was on her way for the second time in two years to Uganda as part of a humanitarian project to deliver medical supplies to an orphanage in the country.

She never made it.

Durante was killed while driving to Logan Airport in Boston when a drunken driver struck the van in which she and eight other students were riding.

Now, her cousin, Matt LaCorte, 33, of Mount Airy has the chance to continue what she started.

LaCorte, a math teacher at Hammond Middle School in Laurel, has been selected along with 11 other people worldwide to run in the first half-marathon trail race in Ethiopia from Feb. 22 to March 3, as part of Accelerate Ethiopia, a program benefiting the Himalayan Cataract Project and imagine1day.

The Himalayan Cataract Project is a Vermont-based initiative that works to improve eye health care in impoverished nations, while imagine1day is a nonprofit organization helping to bring quality education to the impoverished country’s children.

“Ever since [Elizabeth’s funeral], I thought it would always be great to do something similar to what she did. ... It makes you realize that one single person can make a difference,” LaCorte said. “It definitely feels good to [do this].”

During the 10-day trip, LaCorte will not only run in the historic race of about 13 miles, he will also assist at an area eye camp where the Himalayan Cataract Project hopes to return the sight of 1,000 people.

He will also help with an educational project at a school managed by imagine1day.

LaCorte — who has participated in 13 marathons — decided to apply for Accelerate Ethiopia a few months ago after finding out about the program online and recognizing one of the headlining runners planning to participate, Scott Jurek, the American silver medialist of the 2010 24-Hour Ultramarathon World Championships.

“Knowing that he was attached to it caught my eye,” LaCorte said. “I didn’t think I’d get to [participate].”

Last month he received the email saying that he had been selected.

“It was hard for me to fully fathom that I would be in Ethiopia running with these well-known runners and also I would be helping people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him,” said LaCorte’s wife, Mica, 36.

To participate in Accelerate Ethiopia, LaCorte has to raise $10,000 that will go to the charitable beneficiaries and to funding the race.

So far, LaCorte said he’s raised about $4,000, mostly through personal donations. He hopes to raise some of the funds through community fundraisers, such as a community race and sponsorships. The rest of his entrance fee must be submitted in January.

Majka Burhardt, producer of the event, said that the program hopes to select 14 people to participate in the program to raise $140,000.

“Matt had a lot of passion,” Burhardt said of LaCorte. “Matt had this excitement, he had this personal connection to the area. ... [We selected him] because it seemed like it was a really great opportunity.”

Those interested in donating to LaCorte’s entrance fee can do so by going to PayPal at bit.ly/SKiaA6.

myoung@gazette.net