ST. MARYS – When you talk to people about Michael B. Proudfit, one thing becomes apparent quickly: The young man touched many lives during his brief 19 years. Now, his many friends and family members plan to show their joy at having known him with a special night and a 5K walk/run in his memory.
Proudfit, who died in a car accident in February, was a 2010 graduate of Elk County Catholic High School and had attended Clarion University, where he was on the swim team. He was also a former member of the St. Marys Area High School Swim and Dive Team and the Blue Tide swim team, and had worked as a lifeguard at the St. Marys Community Pool. Many of his former teammates, along with businesses Secco Designs and Innovated Solutions, are sponsoring the “Michael B. Proudfit Memorial 5K Walk/Run” on Sunday, Aug. 5, and “Mike Proudfit Night” on Monday, Aug. 6.
St. Marys Community Pool Manager Greg Snelick said the 5K, now in its third year, initially began as part of Picnic in the Park. With the decision not to hold the Picnic in the Park event this year, pool workers decided to continue the race and name it in honor of Proudfit.
"We thought it would be a good idea to continue the race, and since Picnic in the Park was no longer going to be here, to run the race in Mike's memory. And we'll probably do it here on a yearly basis now," Snelick said. "[Pool lifeguard] Rachel Schreiber did most of the groundwork organizing the race, and she put the flyers and race form together this year, and she is actually running the race for us, and a lot of the organization is through her."
He said Proudfit had worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the pool, and knew many of its current and former employees.
"He was very good friends with a lot of the lifeguards, not only because of his association with the lifeguards up here, but because of his involvement with the swim teams. A lot of the lifeguards up here at the pool are also swimmers, so a lot of them were very, very close to Mike," Snelick said.
He said the pool employees wanted to do something in honor of Proudfit, and thought the 5K and "Mike Proudfit Night" would be a great way to honor him. Snelick received permission from the St. Marys Recreation Board to go ahead with the events and is hoping for a big turnout.
"It would be nice to see as many members in the community as possible to come out that evening just to show their support for Mike and his family," Snelick said.
The 5K walk/run will begin at 9 a.m. at the community pool. The registration fee includes a race T-shirt if registered by July 28, and T-shirts and complimentary water bottles may be picked up the morning of the race at the pool. Payment may be made by cash or check, payable to the St. Marys Recreation Fund, on the day of the race, or may be mailed to St. Marys City Hall, Attention: Sharon Brem, 111 Lafayette St., St. Marys, PA 15857. Forms for the race may be picked up at the pool, and all proceeds from the event will benefit the pool.
Mary Secco, who has coached with Blue Tide over the years and was the head coach last year, as well as spending the past decade as an assistant coach at SMAHS, said she got to know Proudfit and his family well over the years, both through being his coach and through cheering on her son, Travis, who has also swum with area teams. The swimmers in the area and their families are a tight-knit group, she said.
“We call it our swim family. We spend a lot of time together. The kids practice, and the parents, you kind of get to know everybody and I guess that’s just kind of how swimming is,” Secco said.
“When you’re in the Blue Tide program like that, they swim every Saturday, so it’s kind of like an all-day event. You’re in the stands, and you cheer for each other’s kids.”
She said that family atmosphere is just one of the reasons why Proudfit is missed so much.
“What I remember a lot about Michael is that he was able to reach some of his goals and how proud he was that he was able to do it and how much that meant to him,” Secco said. “He was part of a group of boys that had been together for a while, and they kind of worked together and helped each other, and set some goals to succeed, and they did. “And that’s what was nice about Michael, he encouraged his teammates and they worked together. They ended up with their undefeated season.
“Whenever they set those commitments and they set the goal to work together, it works out. He was a big part of that.”
For more information on either the 5K or Mike Proudfit Night, contact the St. Marys Community Pool at 834-9417 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Pick up a copy of the Saturday, July 14, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.