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Apodaca: Organizer has loads of spirit for schools' run

February 02, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

It's nearly impossible to say no to Diane Daruty. That, it turns out, is a very good thing.

Daruty, a Newport Beach mom who has worked as a lawyer and certified public accountant, pretty much single-handedly rescued the Spirit Run from certain death. What's more, she reworked the annual school fundraiser into a bigger, more ambitious event, and she has lots of ideas and plans for more expansion and improvement.

I know about Daruty's tenacity from first-hand experience. After last year's Spirit Run, she contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in writing about the resurrection and reimagining of the race. Sure, I replied, but maybe later.

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Some months went by, and I heard from her again: Now? Again I told her: Not yet.

But in the past few weeks, I've noticed a slew of e-mails, posters and mailers about the upcoming Spirit Run set for March 3 in Newport Center, and I figured it was about time to keep my promise. Daruty graciously made time to talk to me despite her frenetic schedule in the weeks leading up to the race.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first Spirit Run, and it's no exaggeration to state that it wouldn't be happening if not for Daruty's dogged persistence.

"I'm a running maniac, and I love the event," she said. "It's a tremendous opportunity, in a healthy way, to make tons of money for the schools. There's no other event like this for the kids."

The Spirit Run was originally envisioned as a way to raise money for the Newport-Mesa elementary schools in the Corona del Mar zone — first Lincoln, Harbor View and Anderson, then also Eastbluff and Newport Coast elementary schools after they opened. It featured age-based races, music and other activities.

But by 2010, there were rumblings of discontent among participating parent-teacher associations. Although each had long encouraged students, families and others in the community to sign up for the race and received a share of the proceeds in return, many saw the event as a whole lot of work for a limited return.

What's more, some PTA members seemed more interested in investing their time and resources into their own fundraisers, such as jog-a-thons, that were viewed as competition for the Spirit Run. Without the support of individual schools, the event would be history.

"I was literally crying," when it appeared the race would end, said Daruty, who had been a Spirit Run volunteer since 2006.

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