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Running for a cause

GSU Employee to run a marathon to raise money, awareness for scholarship in name of slain GSU studen

When his friend and one-time flag football teammate Levon Jones was killed two years ago in New Orleans, Michael Holsonback knew he wanted to do something for him.
    A flag football tournament was organized that spring to raise money for Jones' family, but Holsonback still had a desire to do more.
    So for the past 14 weeks, he's been training to participate in the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon in New Mexico to raise money to endow a scholarship in Jones' name.
    "It's been two years and two months since he was killed and it's almost like he's been forgotten by a lot of people," he said. "His family will never forget, and neither will his friends, but for those who don't think about him every day, we don't want him to be remembered as a statistic, just another young, black man killed in New Orleans."
    Jones, a graduate of Statesboro High School, was in New Orleans in December 2004 with a Georgia Southern flag football team when he was killed outside of a nightclub.  Four bouncers from the club have since been arrested and face murder charges.
    To endow the scholarship, Holsonback needs to raise $15,000 within five years.
    "The first phase is the marathon. After that, we'll reassess and see what's next."
    So far, Holsonback, who works at the Georgia Southern Post Office, has raised approximately $3,000, mostly through donations from his family and friends. He's also thought about hosting another flag football tournament in the future as another avenue to raising money for the scholarship.
    "It's going to be an academic scholarship," he said. "I haven't sat down with the people at the alumni office to hammer out the details of who qualifies for it yet. Right now I'm just trying to raise the money."
    Holsonback set up a website (www.georgiasouthern.edu/~michaelh) that chronicles why he's participating in the marathon as well as training logs that are updated weekly to keep people up to date on his progress.
    There's also a link on the site that allows people to make donations to the scholarship.
    The marathon Holsonback is participating in is the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon held in White Sands, New Mexico on March 25. The marathon honors the World War II soldiers who defended islands and defense ports in the Philippines.
    He said went to North and South Carolina to try to train in the higher altitude, though he said there were no areas in this region that could accurately simulate the conditions he'll experience in New Mexico where he'll be anywhere from 4,100 to 5,300 feet above sea level in the rugged terrain of the White Sands Missile range.
    "The only thing I can't replicate is the altitude," he said.
    He's also participated in marathons in Alaska and Montana.
    Holsonback said he doesn't run the 26.2 miles, but instead alternates between power walking and jogging.
    "I just want to honor and pay tribute to such a nice young man," he said.

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