Indiana, PA - Indiana County

At 40, area native running 'for a reason'

by on April 25, 2013 10:50 AM

Turning 40 can be a milestone in any woman’s life, and one Indiana County native used her 40th birthday as an excuse to get fit and raise money for a noble cause.

Laurie Swisher, formerly of Home, has vowed to run a half-marathon every month this year in an effort to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a cause close to her heart because her 14-year-old nephew, Zeke, has been diagnosed with the disease.

The goal began when she turned what she calls “fabulous 40” in December.

“I wanted to do something big, something kind of memorable, so when I turned 40 I could say, ‘when I was 40, I did this,’” Swisher said. “I was going to be 40, I was going to run, and I was going to run for a reason.”

Not necessarily an athlete at the start of her mission, Swisher said her experience was limited to running on the Marion Center Area High School track team as a sprinter. Her father, she said, encouraged her to get fit in 2010. At that point she had had two children.

It wasn’t until about July, Swisher said, that she realized her biggest motivation for running was Zeke.

Zeke, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes around Easter of last year, is a student at Marion Center and is Swisher’s main inspiration.

“He’s a real go-getter kind of kid,” Swisher said. “He’s absolutely incredible.”

She said that when Zeke was diagnosed, she called him in his room at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh. Rather than her sending him inspiring messages of hope, he reassured her that he was OK and that “everything was going to be all right.”

“From the moment he was diagnosed he was just so positive,” Swisher said, mentioning the great sense of humor that Zeke has in any situation.

By creating a fundraising page through, Swisher aimed to raise $2,400 for the research foundation. So far, she has raised 106 percent of her goal, according to the website, with more than $2,500 contributed.

On the website, Swisher, of Downingtown, also tracks her progress so her friends, family and fans can stay updated while she embarks on her running journey.

In addition, Zeke has posted a story of his first year as a diabetic on the website, recalling when his family first started noticing the signs of diabetes, one of the most prominent being his memory of testing his blood sugar for the first time with his grandfather’s meter — registering at more than 600 milligrams, several times higher than normal levels.

“It’s almost hard for me to believe that such a little chemical (insulin) in my body can have such an impact on life,” Zeke says on the site.

Swisher said that she “kicked off her year” with a full marathon in January, running all 26.2 miles of the Walt Disney World Marathon.

“That was my first-ever marathon-distance race,” she said. “It went well, but it was long.”

As the year has progressed, she has done races at the Daytona Speedway in Daytona Beach in February, the Rock n’ Roll USA half-marathon in Washington, D.C., in March, and the Garden Spot half-marathon in New Holland in April.

Next, she’ll head to Pittsburgh to become a “Runner of Steel” in the Pittsburgh half-marathon on May 5. This, she said, will be one of the most exciting, because her family, friends and Zeke will be there to cheer her on.

“When the miles get long or I feel like quitting, I remember what Zeke goes through each and every day,” Swisher said on the fundraiser website. “He does not have the choice to quit being a diabetic, so I cannot quit running and racing.”

Donate to Team JDRF on Swisher’s fundraising page by visiting and searching “Fabulous 40.”

Ellen Matis is the digital media coordinator and a staff writer at The Indiana Gazette. She is the person behind the Gazette's social media. A 2012 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Ellen has a degree in journalism and public relations. Follow her on Twitter, @EllenMatis, or email her at
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