Dirty Vagabond teams up with Pittsburgh Marathon


Instead of dreading the prospect of a marathon, many Franciscan University students are looking forward to it with expectation. The Pittsburgh Marathon, an annual event held in May, serves as a fundraiser for charities such as Dirty Vagabond Ministries.

Dirty Vagabond Ministries, founded by Franciscan’s Director of Household Life, Bob Lesnefsky, is an inner city ministry geared to local teens which focuses on spending time with the teens, growing in relationships with them, and journeying with them towards a relationship with Christ, according to student head Shannon Keating. Steubenville is one of its locations.

Keating, a senior at the university, said that “these are kids who really look up to young adults who live differently than anyone else in their lives.” She emphasized the need for youth and particularly university students to participate in this ministry, which has a yearlong core team commitment of 10-20 people.

“They’re our neighbors, and we need to love our neighbors and minister to the people that are closest to us,” she said. “We can’t just go on the mission trips overseas, we have to serve the people around here.”

According to Keating, the past year has seen a large increase in the core team, bolstering it up to 20 or even 25 members. She is excited to see the growth, because “as we grow down at the underground, we need more and more people to help out because there’s so many teens we wouldn’t be able to minister to if we didn’t have these extra people.”

She added, “It’s an incredible opportunity for those who feel called to minister to the youth to get those real life situations of bringing Christ to the people they meet.”

The marathon is the largest fundraiser that the ministry does every year, which includes all its locations in Wichita (Kansas), Pittsburgh, and Steubenville. These individual sites do separate fundraisers, such as a wine and cheese night for donors, or nights where students from downtown will give personal testimonies, “but there’s nothing like the marathon,” said Keating. “This is the biggest event, what everyone looks forward to.”

The race, which is a great networking opportunity for the ministry as well as other charities, allows charities to have a large amount of the proceeds. In the past, the run has made $50,000 or even $60,000 each year. The ministry sets its goals higher each year, and this year it has set the bar at $75,000.

Participants raise money individually through the website www.crowdrise.com, which raises awareness of the ministry and the event to all kinds of people who wish to run or to donate.

Keating said that anyone can get involved, and she especially reaches out to volunteers from the Dirty Vagabond core team, households who can do relay teams, student runners, Runners for Life, or anyone who is interested.

Having only run three miles at once before her first marathon, Keating said that “I wasn’t a runner, and I just decided to do it, sacrificing my time and the pain of running” for the ministry and the teens. She ran the full marathon her freshman year and has run a half every year since.

“I wanted to be able to do that for the teens and for the ministry,” she said. “Anyone can do it as long as you stick to it.”

The teens who benefit from the ministry do their part to “give back to the ministry that helps them,” according to Keating, by handing out water and cheering on the runners during the marathon. “They appreciate that people are willing to do this for them,” she said.

Calling it an “awesome opportunity to be able to give back,” Keating encouraged students to get involved in the marathon as well as the ministry itself.

“You’re not just running a marathon, you’re running a marathon for someone else, for a teen who’s in need,” said Keating. “Run the marathon because it’s a fun experience to be challenged to be more than yourself.”