Run for Rio rekindles memories

by | Jun 5, 2012 | News Articles

Run for Rio rekindles memories

Race dedicated to shooting victim enters 15th year

Pueblo Chieftain Article

It’s been 15 years since a shooting accident took the life of Rio Martinez just weeks before he was to begin his senior year at Rye High School. At the time, the Greenhorn Valley community took it hard, with those having ties to the school or its students and athletes being devastated by the loss and the circumstance.

Rio’s parents, Nancy and Jim Martinez, made a quick decision to donate their son’s organs to the Colorado Organ & Tissue Donor Registry in hopes of perpetuating Rio’s life and benefitting others. The following spring, they took another step by starting the Run for Rio to commemorate their son’s spirit.

The inaugural year, it was a low-key 20-mile distance run from the Martinez’s home to the high school, a route Rio covered on training runs when he ran cross country for the Thunderbolts. Thatday, runners would jump in anywhere along the route and run as many miles as they wanted, but Jim did the entire distance in honor of his son. It was a very emotional day for everyone at the finish in the school parking lot when Jim addressed the crowd gathered there.

The Martinezes also started a college scholarship in their multisport son’s name — the Rio Don Diego Martinez Memorial Scholarship that is awarded annually to a graduating Rye senior or seniors who best demonstrates the attributes of academics, integrity and high character that marked Rio’s life.

The Run for Rio also changed to a shorter 4-mile organized race held north of Highway 165, then evolved to a 5-kilometer run and walk that starts and finishes at Rye High and traverses beautiful rolling roads in the Rye neighborhood south of the highway at an altitude of 6,900 feet.

The 10th anniversary of the race five years ago was a special and even more emotional one since the recipient of Rio’s heart through the registry took part for the first time. Dave Karnell of Centennial, then 57, was on hand to meet Nancy and Jim in person, bringing Nancy flowers and walking the course.

The tears flowed between the three of them, and Karnell and Jim drew a loud ovation while walking the last 30 or 40 yards arm in arm. Karnell has attended the race each year since.

Much has changed over the past 15 years. While the race proceeds are still used to fund the scholarship that bears Rio’s name, the interest in the run and the significance of who Rio was and what the event and scholarship mean have become somewhat unknown to many who weren’t associated with the tragedy.

Until now, that is. During the past few months, much effort has taken place to get Run for Rio participation from all of the recipients (or at least one of their family members) of the scholarship that the race funds. An effort was made to contact all the organ donor recipients and request their participation.

Race organizers are also hoping that the community and high school student body, especially the track and cross country runners, will get involved to help make it a large, significant event when it takes place at 8 a.m. June 2.

Two Rio scholarships were presented at the school May 15 — to Conner Pigg and Kaley Ragan.

Other recipients since the start were Levi Heidrich (1998), Aaron Franchi (’99), Jessica Gogarty (2000), Darby Makloski (’01), Matthew Heidrich and Catherine Page (’02), Crystal Berndt and Travis Tyner (’03), Kalan Spencer (’04), Marcella Burg (’05), Sara Manuel (’06), Samantha Davenport (’07), Jack Highberger (’08), Cody McCullah (’09), Laney Burns (’10) and Sarah Pigg (’11).

“We still believe in what Rio’s attributes were at the time of his passing — always continuing to improve one’s self, friends, family, community and, most of all, being there for any and everyone who may need help,” Nancy said of the significance of continuing the Rio scholarship.

Entry forms are available at Rye High School and at the Gold Dust Saloon in Pueblo as well as online on the Southern Colorado Runners’ website ( joomla). Beautiful purple tech shirts with a spiffy, newly-designed logo will be given to all entrants.

The donor registry will be promoted again at the race. Jim has assembled military veterans to do the walk since his knees no longer allow him to run the course and vets from Pueblo, Greenhorn Valley and other areas are invited to join them. The local Lions Club is expected to make a pancake breakfast available after the race.

More information is available via email at either or .

Send comments and fitness information to Gary Franchi via email at .