Run For Alex still going strong after 10 years
Runners leave the starting line of the 5-mile Run for Alex in Bentleyville Saturday.
Linda Ritzer / Observer-Reporter
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Jim Loos recalls Aug. 11, 2004, with vivid detail. It was a picturesque summer day with blue skies and warm temperatures. He was working on a car at his business, Jaks Muffler & Brakes in Washington, and was preparing to finish the workday when he received a phone call that forever changed his life, and the lives of others.
Thomas Turnbaugh, Bentworth School District’s superintendent, delivered news that Loos’ 15-year-old daughter and soon-to-be Bentworth High School sophomore, Alexzandra, had been hit by a car on Lincoln Avenue in Bentleyville while walking home from soccer practice.
Jim Loos rushed to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where Alex was flown. Jim and Cathy Loos, sat by their daughter’s bedside for 36 hours before she died from head, neck and torso injuries.
Alex Loos was hit by an automobile traveling in excess of 70 mph in an area with a posted 40-mph speed limit. The driver had 17 prior convictions of driving on a suspended license.
It was two weeks before Alex’s 16th birthday and less than three months after she set a meet record at the WPIAL Individual Track & Field Championships in the 1,600-meter run and won two medals at the PIAA Championships.
“I was panicked,” Jim Loos said. “It’s something that’s burnt in my memory forever. August is always tough. It’s close to the family. It’s never a good time of year.”
The Loos family created a foundation in Alex’s name. In the 10 years since her sudden death, the From Alex With Love Foundation has distributed 156 scholarships to local high school students, helped families in need at Christmas and contributed to many endeavors in the community.
All contributions are made possible by an annual event called Race for Alex, which the Loos family hosts in Bentleyville. Hundreds gathered Saturday on Main Street to compete in the 10th annual Race For Alex. Competitors of all ages participated in a five-mile run, two-mile run or a one-mile fun run/walk with proceeds benefiting the foundation. More than $5,000 in scholarships were awarded in 2014. With an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 raised Saturday – before race expenses – charitable efforts should be strong again in 2015.
“The community support is overwhelming and it always has been,” Jim Loos said. “Most people who don’t know Alex, they come to the race and think they knew her by the time they leave. If it’s not for all of the stuff we have up, it’s for the people they talk with. It was fantastic.”
Saturday’s event featured memorabilia of Alex’s athletic accomplishments – which included her success in track and as one of two female players on Bentworth’s boys soccer team – as well as her former classmates, teammates and fellow competitors.
“It’s the one day we get to celebrate Alex’s life and we can share it with community, people who knew her for her athletic accomplishments and those who knew her best,” Jim Loos said.
Alex was an active member of the Leo Club, a youth branch of the Lions Club, and never hesitated to help others in need. Creating a foundation in her name was a natural fit. The event is held on the first Saturday in June, which is shortly after the PIAA Track & Field Championships, where one of the highlights of Alex’s life occurred – a third-place finish in the Class AA 1,600-meter run and fifth place in the 800 as a freshman.
Lisa Stout-Bashioum, whose son, Josh, was a teammate of Alex in both track and soccer, jumped at the opportunity to help the Loos family. She is vice president of the foundation and helped organize Saturday’s event.
“(Alex) was a freshman phenom,” Stout-Bashioum said. “She inspired everyone on the team to do the best they could. After the accident, our community came together to show that we could support her name and her memory.”
Bentworth head track coach Jerome Nixon remembers the stoic look Alex displayed while competing. Though she was just a freshman, the distance runner strived for perfection. He once joked with Alex that she did not need to humiliate boys in co-ed track meets.
“Everything I do as far as athletes, I gauge by what (Alex) did,” Nixon said. “She was the hardest worker I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a kid who was as dedicated to her sport, to her team and to her family. I owe it to the family to be a part of this every year.”
Despite just having a cast removed after being diagnosed with a stress fracture, one she ran with during postseason meets, Alex joined the boys soccer team for preseason practice on the day she was struck by a car. She was never one to sit idle.
“Alex would never say much about herself, but I had no problem doing that,” Jim Loos said. “She was worked up like a bundle of nerves at meets and when that gun went off, she took off. Once it was over, a straight, serious face would turn into a big smile.”
Alex Loos’ memory is one that will live on through the efforts of the foundation. While it will never alleviate the pain of Alex’s passing, the Loos family finds solace in Run For Alex. The Bentleyville community, scholarship recipients and every person helped by the foundation also will never forget Alex Loos.