Porter County Sheriff's Department

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Manda's Race

Runners support campaign to prevent and treat drug abuse

November 10, 2009



The crowd of more than 200 runners and walkers participating in Manda's Race cheered when they found out the pace car for the 5K event, a gold 1967 Chevy Impala driven by Porter County Sheriff David Lain, was impounded two years ago in a drug seizure.  It seemed only fitting for the fund-raiser sponsored by Community Action Drug Coalition and named for Manda Spitler, who died in 2002 of a heroin overdose at age 20.  "(The race) brings attention to the biggest scourge that our society deals with," Lain said. "Substance abuse affects virtually every family in the United States."  This was the sixth year Mann Spitler, Manda Spitler's father, put together a fundraiser for drug abuse prevention and treatment. The past two years, the event included runners and walkers.  Spitler, who found his daughter shortly after she overdosed in the family's Valparaiso home, said the number of race participants grows each year.  "What also continues to grow is the number of deaths in Porter County directly and indirectly related to drugs," Spitler said. "This event keeps reminding us we have to be ever-vigilant, and it gives us some money to direct to prevention and treatment programs, and that's really our goal."  Most of the $5,000 raised last year went to Chesterton-based Frontline Foundations, which targets treatment for 18- to 25-year-olds.  "It's a key age. It's what I call the 'death zone' because it's where we see the most fatalities," Spitler said.  Despite the solemn tone of the race's mission, the event itself, held on Halloween at Chesterton Intermediate School, featured a fair amount of levity. Some runners and walkers donned costumes, or at least festive headgear or other attire, against the chilly temperature, which hovered around 40 degrees.  Kelly Lyp, 12, dressed as a clown, complete with brightly striped tights. Her mother, Jody Lyp, was a little more subdued, with a black mask edged with silver sequins.  The pair, from Valparaiso, participated last year and did it again because, Jody Lyp said, "it's a great cause." Doing drugs, Kelly said, "could harm your health and is bad."  The event has been an eye-opener for the family.  "Seeing Mann Spitler and his face and the devastation he's been through, it's a good thing for the kids to see," Jody Lyp said. "Making bad decisions doesn't just affect you -- it affects your whole life."Mann Spitler takes a moment to chat with runners at Manda's Race, named for his daughter.

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