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Friends, family to participate in running festival in memory of Lutherville teen who died of cancer

Claire Marie Wagonhurst was 17 when she died of cancer in 2014.

The Notre Dame Preparatory School senior had battled melanoma for three years, according to her mother. Though originally under control, the most serious form of skin cancer returned in the fall of Claire’s senior year and she died Oct. 16, 2014.

“We don’t want anyone to go through what our family went through,” said Claire’s mother, Marianne Banister, of Lutherville.

Three years later, more than 60 former classmates, friends and family members will run the 16th Baltimore Running Festival, a series of races in downtown Baltimore, in Claire’s honor as part of a charity team set up by the nonprofit created by Claire’s family after her death, the Claire Marie Foundation.

To participate in the festival on behalf of the charity team, runners have raised a minimum of $100 each for the kids’ fun run, $250 for the 5K run, $350 for the half marathon, $500 for the marathon, and $1,000 for each four-person team entered in the marathon relay.

The money raised goes to support the mission of the Claire Marie Foundation in raising awareness, clarity and hope in the fight against adolescent melanoma, Banister said.

Though Claire used sunscreen and stayed out of tanning beds she nonetheless came down with melanoma related to entering puberty, according to her mother.

Banister, the foundation’s executive director, co-founded the nonprofit with Claire’s father, Rocky Wagonhurst, and older sister, Hillary Wagonhurst, 25, as a way to honor the teen’s desire to bring awareness to the disease.

“She was going to advocate for it when she was far past it,” Banister said. “It kept striking us that if I had never heard of it, and doctors we knew had never heard of it, then there was a lack of awareness.”

The foundation offers free melanoma screenings to young people, produces awareness campaigns, and partners with dermatologists to offer professional educational programs to pediatric residents on melanoma in young people, according to its website.

Despite her struggles with the disease, Claire was not the type of person to dwell on the negative in life, Banister said.

Sixty runners, including former classmates of Claire’s who are now in college, along with professional colleagues, friends of the family and Rocky Wagonhurst have participated in fundraising for Saturday’s event.

So far, the runners have raised $30,000, though Banister said she hopes to see that total increase to $50,000 by race day.

“It’s our first outing,” Banister said. “I think we’re doing really well. I tell everyone we’re running with Claire, not for her.”

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