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BC3 Pioneer Pursuit raises $16K to benefit scholarships in memory of recent nursing grads

The inaugural Pioneer Pursuit held last Saturday at Butler County Community College raised more than $16,000 for scholarships, which include those in memory of recent nursing graduates who died at ages 23 and 26. Submitted Photo
Families of grads share sentiments

More than 200 runners, walkers and other community members from at least nine Western Pennsylvania counties helped Butler County Community College Sept. 24 in an inaugural event to raise more than $16,000 for scholarships, which include those in memory of recent nursing graduates who died at ages 23 and 26.

The Pioneer Pursuit on BC3’s main campus drew 52 runners, 106 walkers, 35 children runners and 10 yoga participants from Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Blair, Butler, Clarion, Indiana, Mercer and Venango counties.

BC3 student, Kelly Tinoco, of Cranberry, competes in a race at the Pioneer Pursuit last Saturday at BC3. Tracy Leturgey/Butler Eagle

Proceeds from the 5K race, 1-mile walk, children’s 100-meter dash, sponsorships and a basket raffle benefited BC3 Education Foundation scholarships created by family and friends of Sarah Kasunic in 2019 and of Caitlyn Kaufman in 2020.

“It was an incredible turnout,” said Mikayla Moretti, director of special events with the BC3 Education Foundation. “I was shocked. I think a lot of people were really surprised with it being the first year and by how many people came out. It shows that BC3 is a very good convener and the community support for the two families. The community is behind them.”

Diane Kaufman’s daughter, Caitlyn, formerly of Chicora and a 2012 graduate of Butler Senior High School, earned an associate degree in Nursing, R.N., from BC3 in 2018. She was killed at age 26 in 2020 in Tennessee.

The Pioneer Pursuit, Kaufman said, “is very bittersweet. It is very humbling. It’s difficult. I wish I’d never lost Caitlyn. Yet at the same time, it does my heart so good and it helps to heal seeing all the love and support of all our families and friends and complete strangers.

“They all came together to support these two young women that had such a passion for helping others. It’s a tearful moment. I can only say how thankful I am.”

Kasunic, formerly of Butler and a 2013 graduate of Knoch High School, earned an associate degree in Nursing, R.N., from BC3 in 2016. She was killed at age 23 in 2019 in Tennessee.

Morgan Rizzardi, BC3’s director of admissions, was an adviser of the college’s Rho Phi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an international academic honor society, when Kasunic served as chapter president.

“I was there to remember and honor Sarah,” said Rizzardi, who was among more than a dozen BC3 employees who participated in the 5K or in the 1-mile walk.

“Even on ‘days off’ we still put BC3 in the forefront of what we do, and we saw the value in being there, and in participating in this event, to raise money for the student scholarships.”

The inaugural Pioneer Pursuit, held last Saturday at Butler County Community College, raised more than $16,000 for scholarships, which include those in memory of recent nursing graduates who died at ages 23 and 26. Submitted Photo

As did Carson Noble, a BC3 health care science student from Butler who ran in the 5K.

“I think it was good to bring the community together and to recognize the two graduates who were very special,” Noble said. “My family knew who Caitlyn was, and I felt it was necessary to help out at the event.”

The Sarah Kasunic ’16 Scholarship and the Caitlyn Kaufman ’18 Legacy Nursing Scholarship are endowed and available to students enrolled full time in BC3’s Nursing, R.N., program who have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0.

Three BC3 students have received the Kasunic scholarship and two received the Kaufman scholarship, said Bobbi Jo Cornetti, development coordinator for the BC3 Education Foundation.

Funds raised from Pioneer Pursuit also benefited the endowed BC3 Alumni Legacy Scholarships, Moretti said.

Nine BC3 Alumni Legacy Scholarships, and those in memory of Kasunic and Kaufman, are among the 148 awarded by the BC3 Education Foundation to BC3 students in the 2022-23 academic year.

The BC3 Education Foundation in 2022-23 has awarded a record $280,000 in scholarships, Cornetti said.

BC3 Alumni Legacy Scholarships are available to BC3 students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and who are a child or grandchild of a former BC3 student who has earned at least 30 credits at the college.

Winners of the 5K race were Kim Platt, of Butler, female division, with a time of 22:36.61; and Jack Kelley III, Saxonburg, male division, with a time of 18:42.40.

Bill Foley is coordinator of news and media content at Butler County Community College.

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