REPOSTED from Mountaintop Eagle, By ANDREA O’NEILL | Correspondent

Rita Cavazos poses in her Ryan's Run shirt

READY TO TAKE ON MARATHON Mountaintop resident Rita Cavazos will be taking on the NYC Marathon as part of the Team Allied Services fundraising campaign

On November 4, Mountaintop resident Rita Cavazos will take on the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon as part of Team Allied Services, a fund raising and awareness campaign by WNEP’s Ryan Leckey for Allied Services of Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania and people in our region who are living with a disability.

According to their website, Allied Services is a “non-profit corporation and leading provider of healthcare and human services for northeastern Pennsylvanians with disabilities and chronic illness.” They serve children with special needs, people with developmental disabilities and any person who needs assistance with activities of daily living.

The Team Allied Services campaign was born in 2010 with just 5 runners and since then has raised more than $2.6 million for Allied. The funds raised have enabled the non profit to invest in providing the best in rehab technology, staff, and services so local families to stay in their community rather than travelling to Philadelphia or New York for treatment.

“Most of the runners have a personal connection, whether they have a grandmother recovering from a stroke or they’re a parent of a child with a disability,” explained Leckey in a post from New York Road Runners.

This is true of 33-year-old Cavazos, who started running ten years ago as a way to cope with a difficult time in her life. She joined a gym at first just to take better care of herself and began walking a treadmill; gradually exploring the possibility of some light runs and a 5k that later led her to her first half marathon.

“I felt I needed a change in my life and set goals,” explained Rita. “It made me feel better about myself; more confident, more emotionally stable, and grew into more of an appreciation and exploration of what my body was capable of. It’s been my savior.”

Cavazos says that running for Team Allied Services motivates her further to compete in her first NYC marathon. In order to run as part of team WNEP, Rita has to raise $5,000.00 for the organization and has chosen 6-year-old Jackson, a patient at Allied, as her ambassador. Jackson was introduced to her through a cousin and Cavazos was immediately taken by the little boy, who undergoes gait training and sensory integration training at Allied.

“He was so cute and bubbly,” recalled Cavazos. “He plays soccer and loves to color, and he knows more about the Solar System than I do!”

Charlotte Wright, Director of Special Events & External Affairs at Allied Services points out that Cavazo’s experience is not uncommon, noting that Team Allied Services has become more than the funds it raises each year. Rather, Wright says, it is about “shining a light on, honoring the struggles and effort, and celebrating the accomplishments of the children and adults [Allied] serve[s]”

“Special people like Rita who are willing to give their time, energy and compassion are truly at the heart of this campaign,” said Wright. “The Team Allied Services campaign has introduced us to some wonderful people, and for our runners and their ambassadors, the campaign is an opportunity to draw strength and inspiration from each other. Many of our runner/ ambassador pairings form permanent friendships.”

Consistent training for a marathon, or even a half marathon is paramount, and Cavazos has the challenge of working two jobs –one full time position and her own hair studio part time. Cavazos ran a half marathon in the fall, but has since let that fitness level drop because of her work schedule. While seventy hour workweeks don’t leave much time for a daily run, Cavazos says she is determined to fit her workouts in when she can and now that the weather has turned, she brings her workout clothes with her and fits in a run around the Crestwood Industrial Park during her lunch break. She’ll be running a lot in the evenings this summer along South Main, Alberdeen and Church Roads.

“I’m very dedicated and motivated, and I’ll fit them in when I can,” explained Cavazos. “I feel so invigorated after working out. I really want to do well.”

“My husband thinks I’m insane,” joked Cavazos. “but its my stress reliever. I love running.”

“I could have picked anybody” said Cavazos who, like most people, thought Allied was mostly adults who had life changing injuries. Through Jackson she learned that the organization also helps children with all different challenges like Autism, physical rehab, vocational services and behavioral health. “Its good for the community and it’s a fantastic opportunity to help Jackson and run for him”.

“Raising the money and running 26.2 miles through the boroughs of NYC are both huge goals but I’m pretty confident I can do it,” added Cavazos. “I’m nervous but I’m pretty sure I can do this and I’m hoping for a successful run.

So far, Team Allied Services has raised a total of $35,796.32 out of their $500,000 November goal. To learn more and donate in honor of Rita, you can visit: https://allied-services-foundation.everydayhero.com/us/rita-cavazos -and be sure to look for Rita on the roads of Mountaintop.