Merrimack 5K, fun run held in memory of cancer victim

MERRIMACK – Quickly becoming part of the culture in Merrimack, the sixth annual Erica’s 5K Run/Walk is preparing for race day Saturday, Sept. 26.

The event is named for the late Erica Pombrio, who died of lipo-sarcoma in September 2009 at age 23, a year after her diagnosis. According to her family, one of her last wishes was to do something to help others dealing with cancer, especially children.

Erica’s Run has done just that, raising nearly nearly $60,000 since 2010 to help support 17 local families fighting cancer. Organizers hope the growing event will attract more runners than ever this year.

"We would love to see 250; we’re currently at 83," said Nancy DiMartino, who has been with Erica’s Run from the beginning as an event board member and friend of Erica’s family. "The more participants we get, the more families we can help."

In the past, anywhere between 250 and 430 people have signed up to run. Beyond money from runners who register, corporate sponsors and individual donors have helped the cause over the years.

"Aetna Insurance out of Maine is a sponsor this year," DiMartino said. "They’re matching donations from employees dollar for dollar."

Erica’s Run is also the beneficiary of the 50/50 raffle at the Merrimack Rocks celebration at Watson Park, an annual event featuring live music, fireworks, activities and games, as well as awards for notable residents.

Past recipients of assistance from Erica’s Run include children, teens and adults from Greater Nashua, including the late McKenzie Lowe, 13, of Hudson.

The family-friendly event also has a Kids 1K Fun Run, which 25 young runners joined last year. Participants can register at ericasrun.com or visit Strikeback Dynamic Defense Systems at 454 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack.

Day-of registration will begin at 8 a.m., with the fun run kicking off at 9, followed by the 5K at 9:30. The cost is $25 per person to join the 5K or $20 for the fun run. People can sign up individually or in teams of two to eight.

Participants can also show their race number to get a first look at Merrimack Rocks from 1-3 p.m. before the event officially opens to the public.

The event is organized by the Erica Pombrio Foundation, associated with Strikeback and the group Strikeback Against Cancer. Pombrio’s mother and stepfather, Lisa and Bill Spinney, own and operate Strikeback, teaching martial arts to children, teens and adults.

Pombrio, who was born in Raleigh, N.C., moved to Merrimack with her family when she was 8. After graduation from Merrimack High School, she moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where she lived with her father and brother and worked as a sales representative in the resort industry.

After her cancer diagnosis, Pombrio returned to Merrimack, where she was joined by her mother, stepfather and two sisters.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph. com or @Telegraph_TinaF.