Charity Runner Profile: Susan Banaszak-Catena

by Karen Price

Like many runners, Susan Banaszak-Catena has a deep connection to the the charity for which she’ll be running to raise money on May 7 at the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

The Miracle League of the South Hills provides opportunities for children and adults with physical and/or mental disabilities to play baseball. For her son, who has autism, it has been a dream come true. 

“He is 100 percent obsessed with baseball,” Susan said of Jack.

Unfortunately, playing in the local community baseball league turned out to be a horrible experience, Susan said. It was very competitive, and although her son is also competitive, his processing issues interfered with his ability to have success on the field. Not long after they realized the local league wasn’t a good fit for Jack, Susan said, she learned about the Miracle League. Aside from finding frustration with the league overlooking a few rules of the game (three strikes and you’re out, for instance), Jack now loves playing baseball. 

“We couldn’t be happier,” Susan said. “We’re constantly trying to get Jack integrated more and we tried Boy Scouts and soccer, but Miracle League is something that definitely stuck.”

Susan volunteers as everything from announcer to practice assistant to snack bar operator at the Miracle League, so raising money through Run for a Reason was a natural choice. 

Now a Weight Watchers leader after losing 92 pounds six years ago, Susan said that if you’d told her earlier in life that she’d one day run a half-marathon, she would have laughed. 

“In high school, I had to walk the mile (in gym class),” she said. “I tell my Weight Watchers members that my best friend was asthmatic and I was a fat girl, and we walked the mile for the Presidential Physical Fitness test. Our gym teacher yelled to us, ‘Nineteen forty-two was a great year, but it stinks for the mile,’” she said. “It was horrifying.”

After joining a gym as part of her weight loss journey and slowly building up what she was able to do physically, Susan ran her first 5K in April 2010.

This year will be her third half-marathon. 

Much of the money she raises for Casey’s Clubhouse/Miracle League of the South Hills comes from her Weight Watchers community, she said. They’re always interested to hear how Jack’s doing and have even come to watch his baseball games.

She’s also planning a fundraiser at Bakn in Carnegie, where chef Randy Tozzie, a family friend, has offered to design a signature cocktail and donate a portion of sales that day to Susan’s fundraising. 

She also uses social media often as a way to let others know about her fundraising and how to help. So far, she has raised $850 and has a goal of reaching $1,000.

To visit Susan’s Crowdrise page, visit here:

To learn more about the Run for a Reason charity program, visit here:

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