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Medals for Jake
Local teacher's campaign honors fallen runner
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Katie Jasionowski looks through the collection of medals, awards and other race paraphernalia, including her own bib from the Rock 'n' Roll Savannah Marathon, collected by Jasionowski for the family of Jake Zeman, 35, of Columbia, S.C., who collapsed and died near the finish line of the Savannah Marathon last month. - photo by CHARLES CRAVEY/special

A college fund has been established for Jake Zeman's 2-year-old son, Jack. For more information or to contribute, visit

    Katie Jasionowski, a prekindergarten teacher at Langston Chapel Elementary School, is on a quest for a family in need.
    Jasionowski participated in the Rock ’n’ Roll Savannah Marathon on Nov. 9 when tragedy struck.
    Jake Zeman, of Columbia, S.C., was one of the 18,500 runners in the marathon but fell dead near the finish line due to a mitral valve prolapse. His condition had been previously undetected, and Zeman, 35, seemed to be in the best of health. Zeman left behind a wife, Erin, and a 2-year-old son, Jack.
    Moved by the tragedy, Jasionowski felt compelled to do something memorable for the family. So she decided to write Zeman’s wife a letter and collect marathon medals, bibs and trinkets from other runners and give those to the family in his memory.
    Jasionowski has been pleasantly surprised at the generosity of other runners who have given up their awards and medals for this cause.
    “Runners are like family,” she said. “We are there for each other throughout the race and will also stop and help a runner who has fallen, risking the loss of timing.
    “I’m just putting into words and action what I know all other runners are feeling,” she continued. “I just wanted to do something so that family would feel the love from others. In this way, the memory of Jake Zeman keeps on going through those of us who care for and love his family.”
    In her letter to the family, which reads like an essay on the joys of running, Jasionowski writes: “I ran this race for your family . . . never give up . . . Jack, as you grow older, always remember that your dad is with you . . . just believe.”
    A website,, has been established by Zeman’s friends to raise funds for little Jack’s college tuition in the future.
    “To honor Jake and his wife, Erin, Jake’s friends have partnered with the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series to promote a college fund for Jake’s two year old son, Jack,” a message on the website reads. “We do not yet know the memories Jack will keep of his father, but through your generosity, Jack will know his father’s heart and that he was well loved.
    “Jake was fond of ending his emails and texts with a simple word, one that captures Jake’s character and epitomizes our mission here,” the message continues. “With your help and support of Jack, we can ensure that Jake runs on. Trust.”
    One may contribute by going to the site and clicking on the “Donate” button.
    “Jake was on pace to finish the Savannah Marathon in (personal) record time when he collapsed,” Jasionowski said. “Our hearts were broken over the news, so we started many causes to help the family.”
    Jasionowski ran Friday in the second annual Run the ‘Boro, a 5K race in Statesboro, and again collected medals, bibs and other race items to give Zeman’s family.
    “Since I had just turned 35 before the (Savannah) race, I really felt connected to Jake,” she said. “I can only hope that now, others will become involved in helping this dear family by their gifts and generosity. It’s amazing what one person can do, and I have been overwhelmed at the many individuals who have reached out with love and care.”
    Jasionowski has adopted a new philosophy on life from this experience.
    “There is that constant that you are not guaranteed tomorrow,” she said. “Try not to sweat the small stuff. Put your feelings into action, and if you can change just one minute in another person’s life, do it!”

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