Race Officials Refuse to Award Medal to Dog Running for a Good Cause

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
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After being denied a medal, a canine competitor and her human were heart-broken… until another marathon participant stepped up to donate hers.

In Naperville, Illinois, runners participate in the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon. Those who complete the half marathon three times in a row earn what is known as a ‘legacy medal’.

Resident Debbie Mossburg has run the half marathon three times, with Mina, her Belgian Malinois, in the name of a child who had a brain tumor. Noble, right?

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It was until it was time to pass out the medals. Mossburg received hers, but Mina did not, as the race organizers said that only participants get medals. Mossburg said race director Craig Bixler told her that dogs are not legal entries in the race and they don’t get medals.

This was surprising to Mossburg, as she and Mina had earned and received their finisher medals at the end of the third race, and confused as to why Mina wouldn’t also receive the Legacy Medal.

The debate went on, until a recent city council meeting. At this meeting, Monia Perstifilipo, who is the Naperville Running Group leader, donated her Legacy Medal to Mina, saying it was just the right thing to do. Presifilipo said that she’s run in so many half marathons she’s lost count, and was happy to give Mina the medal.

The organizers said that they don’t control what happens the Legacy Medals once they’ve been given to recipients, but they will follow rules in the distribution of the Legacy Medals so they are meaningful. Bixler said people work hard for the medals and they do not want to just hand them out for a nice story.

Mossburg claims it was earned, and Mina deserved it, despite it being part of a nice story. She’s a cancer survivor herself and Mina, her service dog, has always run with her in the races to support cancer research. Each year, they’ve run in honor of a childhood cancer patient chosen by Mossburg’s charity Bike Bald. Because the children with cancer can’t run, Mossburg says Mina runs it for them and in their honor.

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Bixler said that Mina used a bib that had been disqualified anyway, though Mossburg disagrees. Regardless, she knows Mina deserves the Legacy Medal because she met the requirements and the tears fell when Prestifipo placed the glittering medal around Mina’s neck at the council meeting.

Mossburg has contacted the family of the child for whom Mina ran, and soon hopes to give the Legacy Medal to that child, as it is the honor that Mina can bring to the children for whom she runs.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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