Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Women run marathon to raise money, awareness

Philip Wood -- Gold Country Media
Melissa Babasin, left, and Ashley Conk start out their mornings by training for the upcoming
River City Marathon. The two friends hope to raise money and awareness for Mercy Ministries
group home in Lincoln. The Mercy House helps young women who are going through hard times.

In memory of someone they loved and with a desire to help others in need, two young women will run in this weekend’s 2010 River City Marathon and Half Marathon Run & Walk, to raise money for Lincoln’s Mercy Ministries House.

Ashley Conk and Melissa Babasin are running in Alyse Conk’s memory.

“We wanted to do something in my sister’s name,” Conk said. “Melissa and I talked and did a lot of thinking. Raising money for a group who help young women like Alyse – we thought it’s a very worthy cause.”

Alyse died of accidental drowning in August 2009. Her body was discovered in Loomis Basin Community Park, where she had been camping.

Both her older sister Ashley and family friend Babasin said Alyse had been going through hard times.

“She was really working hard to turn things around,” Babasin said. “Alyse had enrolled as a candidate for Mercy Ministries group home in Lincoln. Had she gotten in, things would have been better for her.”

Mercy Ministries is a free-of-charge residential program that helps young women between the ages of 13-28 who face life-controlling issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, physical and sexual abuse, depression and unplanned pregnancy.

“It’s a great program and it really would have helped Alyse,” Conk said. “It’s something we need in this day and age, a place where young women can turn to for emotional and spiritual support.”

Babasin said she and Conk felt doing a run for Lincoln’s Mercy home – in Alyse’s memory – was the right thing to do.

“Things took off from there,” Babasin said.

Along with a core group of supporters – some of them attending the Warehouse Christian Ministries in Roseville – Conk and Babasin formed the team “We Choose Hope.”

“Some of them attend the same church that we do,” Conk said. “Some of them also have beliefs different from ours. But what holds us together is Alyse, the impact she had on our lives and how much we want to help the Mercy Ministries house.”

Babasin said when they first formed the team, she thought they would be lucky if they raised a thousand dollars.

“We’ve all ready raised more than $5,000,” she said. “We’re off to a very good start.”

“Of course, we started training for the marathon, which neither of us have ever done before,” Conk said. “We’ve been training for almost 16 weeks. We’re both hurting muscles we never knew we had.”

Both women said there were times they felt pushed to their limits, physically and emotionally.

“It can be draining and even painful,” Babasin said. “If I feel like I’m close to the breaking point, I tell myself who I’m doing this for and why.”

Conk does the same thing.

“This is something Alyse would have wanted and I’m honoring her memory by being in this marathon,” she said. “I’m also helping young women who need a chance to turn their lives around. That’s another thing Alyse would have wanted me to do.”

Babasin and Conk have kept in close contact with the young women now living at the Lincoln Mercy House.

“They’ve been praying for us a lot,” Conk said. “The night before the run, we’re going to have dinner with the girls. It’ll be a good time.”

Aside from Conk and Babasin, other members on the team with be running or walking the course.

“Everyone is pitching in, doing his or her best,” Babasin said. “Everyone is committed to putting in 110 percent.”

Winning the marathon is not even in their minds, Conk said.

“The only winners will be the girls living in the Mercy House,” she said. “Raising money and awareness for Mercy Ministries and the girls they help – they’re the ones who deserve to win.

“It’s what Alyse would have wanted.”

SOURCE: By Brad Smith, The Press Tribune