Running for Beau

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, August 5, 2008

With a desire to commemorate the memory of late Austin local Beau Zabel, Philadelphia community members, friends and victim advocates united Sunday to raise money for two marathoners planning to run in the 23-year-old’s honor.

“I’ve been working in this field since it happened to my son, Aaron, so I know what the family is going through,” said Kathleen O’Hara, whose 20-year-old son was kidnapped and killed nine years ago while attending college in Ohio. “I just do what I can to make things better.”

O’Hara became familiar with Zabel’s case after reading a newspaper article about his untimely death on a Philadelphia sidewalk around 1:30 a.m. June 15. Zabel was returning home from a Starbucks shift, and, according to Philadelphia investigators, received a fatal shot in the neck as the suspect made off with his iPod.

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A $35,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest. Zabel’s story appeared on “America’s Most Wanted” July 12, though authorities have yet to locate the murder weapon or make an arrest.

Zabel’s story prompted O’Hara, a published author of “A Grief Like No Other,” to write an editorial lambasting the senseless murder of the aspiring teacher.

“I was absolutely outraged that he came here to live his life this way, and this is what happened,” said O’Hara, whose guest article appeared June 19.

“It was a really powerful piece about his loss and our city’s loss,” she said.

Her words helped facilitate the 4 p.m. fundraiser Sunday due to written thanks she received from Zabel’s roommate, family and community members.

“I spoke with Beau’s roommate, Meg Guerreiro, and we decided we really needed to do something to keep Beau’s memory alive,” O’Hara said.

The Oct. 26 Marine Corps Marathon proved a perfect fit, especially after O’Hara and Guerreiro’s roommate learned that Guerreiro’s new roommate, 24-year-old Andrew Shanks, was a capable, and willing, runner.

“He’d always wanted to run it,” O’Hara said.

Zabel’s cousin, Kristian, said he would also run the Washington D.C. race, and, on Sunday, O’Hara, Guerreiro and others hosted a fundraiser to ensure that the two men don’t incur associated costs, including the $595 fee for the marathon.

“We just didn’t feel that they should have to pay for anything,” O’Hara said.

The event took place at the Zabel’s former Starbucks location, on Fourth and South Street, and included a multitude of speakers, refreshments and entertainment.

Speakers included Guerreiro; Shanks; Everett Gullison, deputy mayor for public safety; Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder of a community advocacy organization called Mothers in Charge; and Josh Kleiman, teaching fellow at the Philadelphia-based program hosting Zabel.

Starbucks and Whole Foods donated food and drink.

Their efforts were fruitful — they raised about $1,220 during the two-hour event, which doesn’t include late donations, O’Hara said. Any excess money will be given to an Austin scholarship fund founded by Zabel’s local family members.

“My sister, Sandy, (Kristian’s mom) and members of her family attended the benefit on Sunday,” Beau’s mother, Lana Zamora, said by e-mail. “She called me afterward and said it was beautiful, and very successful as far a raising money.

“I’m not surprised. Philadelphia has been phenomenal as far as reaching out to honor Beau’s legacy,” she wrote.

And for Beau Zabel, the two men will run 26.2 miles as members of “Team Heal Trauma,” a seed of Witness Justice, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about victims of crime and trauma.

“I wanted to show people that there is something you can do, and don’t forget Beau,” O’Hara said, adding, “There is unity in victims’ rights.”