Yukon church community celebrates life of one of its own with memorial fun run

When Aaron Zentz decided he was going to follow his father into marathon running, he wanted his family and friends to know he was serious.

While at church, he insisted a handful of men sign a handwritten note by him with his declaration that he would run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Not only would he finish the marathon, he would even sprint the last 100 yards.

"It was an ongoing argument he had with his father," said Tracy Zentz, Aaron's mother. "After 26.2 miles, there's just no way, and Aaron would just say, 'Yes, yes, I'll do it.'"

Unfortunately, a car wreck took the young man's life earlier this year, but members of the community pulled together to create a 5K fun run and 2K walk in memory of Aaron for Saturday, which would have been less than a week after his 18th birthday.

"I'm honored that they wanted to do this for Aaron," Tracy Zentz said. "He would be the last person to think that he deserved anything like this. He was goofy and put himself forward, but when it came to honoring himself, he just wouldn't do it."

Organizer Deana Clingerman has been a longtime family friend and also had Aaron in her advisory class for three years.

"He was such an interesting character, goofy, cracking jokes in the classroom," she said. "When you needed some levity, he would provide it, but yet he was very much of a servant as well. There was a girl in his class that for the entire school year, this boy would open the door for her and she never even knew his name. The day after he was killed, she discovered it was Aaron because he was no longer there to hold the door for her.                        

Clingerman was surprised by how Aaron's story touched people across the community.

"His funeral was held at the fine arts auditorium at the high school, and we estimated there were over 1,000 people in attendance," she said. "Even the people who did not know him were impacted by the story."

Proceeds of the inaugural run will go to the Boys and Girls Missions Challenge, an organization that helps promote and facilitate youth mission work, such as responding to natural disasters, hunger relief and anti-human trafficking programs. BGMC was chosen because Aaron had worked with his parents to promote it throughout Oklahoma.

Come race day, the Yukon community will not be the only ones participating in the run. A friend at West Point is also organizing a run, as are other friends across the country. Zentz admits that she's not sure Aaron would have felt comfortable with all the attention, but she does think he would appreciate that the event would help serve a higher purpose.

"He would laugh at something like this, but I think it's a good thing to remember his life and to remind kids that their lives do matter," Zentz said. "So many kids nowadays don't think that their lives matter. Well "¦ it matters to hundreds that you might not even know." "Charles Martin