Second Annual Dee’s Dash Commemorates Former Magruder Softball Coach

Proceeds to benefit the Denise Wilson Schaefer Memorial Scholarship


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Denise Schaefer with her two children in 2014 just two weeks before her death due to a blood infection

Geoff Schaefer

As a math teacher at Col. Zadok Magruder High School beginning in 1998, Denise Schaefer was able to affect students’ lives. But she wanted to be able to provide more guidance, her best friend and Gettysburg College roommate Amy Wenger said, to help these adolescents navigate their way through high school and set them up for bright futures.

In 2004 Schaefer, who also coached the Magruder softball team for several years, went back to school at Johns Hopkins to become a school counselor.

So, when Schaefer, the wife of Walt Whitman swim and dive coach Geoff Schaefer, passed away suddenly from a blood infection in May 2014 at the age of 38, Wenger immediately knew the best way to honor her friend and give back to the community she loved.

The Second Annual Dee’s Dash, a 5k Race and 1-mile Family Fun Run, will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday at Olney Boys and Girls Club Community Park (4501 Olney Laytonsville Road). All proceeds will benefit the Denise Wilson Schaefer Memorial Scholarship fund, available to Magruder students.

Last year’s inaugural event drew nearly 900 participants and raised $15,000, which was split between two scholarship winners.

Denise Schaefer began running in her 30s, Wenger said, after the birth of her two daughters, Hailey, 7, and Katelyn, 4. She completed the Marine Corps Marathon, which Geoff Schaefer said was on her bucket list, and ran in the Iron Girl Half Marathon two weeks before her death.

Wenger said because Denise did not start running until later in life, organizing Dee’s Dash was a way to remind those in the community that it’s never too late to go after a dream. Geoff said a 5K is the perfect gateway into the running world for newcomers.

The scholarship in Denise’s name does not necessarily go to the student with the highest grade-point average, Wenger said. And it’s not a popularity contest, she added. Using teacher recommendations and an essay, among other resources, in the decision-making process, the scholarship is designed to “catch a good kid who could still use some help getting to college,” Wenger said. It’s made for “the average kid who has a chance at doing something great,” added Geoff Schaefer.

“Denise would fight tooth and nail for her kids,” Geoff said. “She really wanted to be able to help kids who needed a little focus in life. This scholarship is designed for a kid who is going to go somewhere but needs a little monetary backing in that direction. …Every time she would sit down [and get worked up about a certain student situation], I would be like, ‘Relax, you can deal with it tomorrow.’ And she would be like, ‘No, you don’t understand, this kid has a great GPA but his parents are divorced and they don’t have the money. If only I could help them.’ Well, this is a great way to help.”

For more information on the race go to www.deesdash.org.

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