By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
Even though it’s been 14 years, Laura Fleming still gets emotional when she talks about the unexpected death of her husband, Mark, who was only 42 when he collapsed while running at Buhl Park.
Thanks to the efforts of a group of close-knit friends and family who annually organize the Mark Fleming Memorial Golf Scramble, she plans to donate five automated external defibrillators - more commonly known as AEDs - to Buhl Park and four Little League organizations in the hopes of “saving even one life.”
After her husband died of a heart attack, Fleming, owner of The Engraving Place in Hermitage, found herself with three small children to raise and a business to run. Frank and Joe Lenzi, of Farrell, along with Jim Pacsi, of Sharon, came up with idea of a golf scramble to help raise money to put toward the children’s college tuitions.
Fleming said her husband played golf, but especially enjoyed running, playing tennis and coaching Little League.
The golf scramble raised about $3,000 a year, she said, and she used it for tuition for each child.
Ryan, now 28, graduated from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Josh, 26, graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Carly, 21, graduated from Boston University.
Fleming now wants to return the money to the community that helped support the memory of her husband and for each of the last three years has donated the proceeds to something that her husband loved, she said.
In 2010, the golf scramble committee, which includes Lenzi, Pacsi, Judi Reagle, Laura and Josh, donated the money to Monsignor Geno J. Monti School at Our Lady of Fatima, where Mark had attended church.
In 2011, the group bought aluminum bleachers for the tennis courts at Buhl Park, because her husband loved to play tennis there, Fleming said.
Last year, was “especially exciting” Fleming said, because Larry Perna of Modern Woodmen Insurance agreed to match donations up to $2,500. The defibrillators. were purchased with the help of John Libonati, a paramedic and deputy coroner with McGonigle Ambulance, who helped buy the equipment at cost.
UPMC’s nurse educator, Amy Higgins, is donating two training classes on March 2, showing users how to perform CPR and use the defibrillator.
Once the organizations have people that are trained, the AEDs will be given to Buhl Park, Hermitage Little League, Sharon Little League, West Middlesex Little League and Lakeview Little League, Fleming said.
“We are thankful every year for the countless businesses and friends that donate to make this such a huge success. And we appreciate all the golfers who support us,” Fleming said.
The 15th golf scramble will be held Aug. 25 at Borland Golf Center in New Wilmington. Anyone interested in participating or donating to the event can call Lenzi at 724-699-7678 or Josh Fleming at 724-734-1205.