Oppo 5K in Flower Hill returns to honor beloved resident

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Ten-year-olds Violet Sulzbach, left, and Vanessa Cruz, 10, of Manhasset race to the finish line of the Katie Oppo Memorial 5K on Sunday in Flower Hill. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

Over 200 people took part in the return of a 5K run over the weekend to honor a Flower Hill native who died of a rare ovarian cancer.

Katherine Rose “Katie” Oppo had graduated from Manhasset High School in 2009 and was preparing for her sophomore year at Johns Hopkins University when in 2010 she was diagnosed with stage four small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type — an aggressive form of the disease — and died only a few months later in 2011.

The Katie Oppo Research Fund had held annual 5K runs in its namesake’s honor to raise money for ovarian cancer research ever since, but had to go online last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a rising vaccination rate in New York, the organization was permitted to hold its 11th run in-person Sunday, kicking off at Flower Hill Country Park and, after a series of hills that would test any sprinter, finishing at Flower Hill Village Hall.

Co-organizer Daniela Calcagini had been a friend of Oppo’s and was an original member of what the fund calls Team Katie.

“COVID definitely took us back a little bit,” Calcagini said. “We kind of rolled with the punches in terms of doing a virtual event, but we wanted to come back bigger this year and do more, especially to draw out some people who we haven’t drawn out before.”

First-timers did come out to run on the 80-degree morning, including Biju Abraham of Manhasset and his children Sam and Jessica.

“The weather’s actually mild for a June day, it’s pretty good for a run,” Abraham said. “This is a great thing for the community, and I really enjoy getting together, seeing our friends, seeing people that we know. It’s for a good cause and it’s great exercise.”

Alexandra Laine of Manhasset, a member of a local running club, was the first participant to reach the finish line and had previously done the 5K in 2019, albeit while pushing her daughter in a stroller. The event marked her very first blue ribbon win, she said.

“It is my first win, ever, so that was exciting,” Laine said. “It’s a great race, it’s a great community event. And everybody should come out and do it.”

For others, it was more sentimental. Erin Bower, a Manhasset native, attended high school with Oppo and returned to the area two years ago. She had taken part in the 5K with her husband and two sons.

“Katie always had a smile on her face,” Bower remembered. “She stood out in a room full of people.”

The event truly embodied Oppo’s enthusiasm, according to Calcagini.

*********”Katie was a very loving, vibrant, caring, supportive individual,” Calcagini said “She would definitely be the first person to turn up to an event like this.”

 

 

 

 

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