- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Three people from the western Pennsylvania town where 21 students and a security guard were wounded in a high school stabbing rampage hope to raise money for the victims by running the Boston Marathon.

Kim Pekarcik said her 15-year-old daughter, Gracie, witnessed the carnage on April 9 when another student used two kitchen knives to stab and slash his way down a hallway moments before classes began at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.

“She told me, ‘Mom, I never felt like I had to run for my life before,’” Pekarcik said Thursday.

“Just knowing the fear they had in that hallway, I’m sure it was the same fear the spectators had and the runners had in Boston last year,” Pekarcik said, referring to the bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 others at the marathon.

Pekarcik and friends Marlo Ayres and Jason Jelovich had planned to run this year’s marathon to support the bombing victims, but now they want to help their community instead.

To raise money, the trio is searching for sponsors willing to donate $1 for each person who tracks their progress using an AT&T smartphone app.

People can track runners by texting their bib numbers - Pekarcik’s is 18946, Ayres’ is 18347 and Jelovich’s is 6682 - to 345678. AT&T will send texts to update them on the runners’ progress.

AT&T will track how many people text each runner’s bib number, which the trio will use to raise money from sponsors, Pekarcik said. The money will be donated to a bank account already set up to help the community and the stabbing victims, she said.

The runners will be wearing Franklin Regional T-shirts and blue rubber bracelets with the Twitter address, #FRStrong. The Twitter site is being used to communicate about the tragedy and provide news on the victims and their recovery.

The runners are soliciting sponsors through a Facebook page, “We are FR Boston Marathon Runners.”

“I think it hit home with us,” said Ayres, whose daughters, Emerson and Addison, attend elementary school in the district. “It goes beyond just one person. It’s affected the entire community.”

Pekarcik has sons, Matthew, in middle school, and Benjamin, in grade school, while Jelovich, the only runner who graduated from Franklin Regional High School, has two sons, Connor and Jake, also in elementary school.

“It definitely hit me pretty closely,” Jelovich told WPXI-TV, which first reported the fundraising effort.

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