Runners honor man killed on Put-in-Bay, raise money for Christian-based grief counseling group

Tragedy inspires friend to help others

A group of Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon runners plans to honor a Westlake man killed on Put-in-Bay and give hope to others who have lost a loved one suddenly.

About 12 people will lace up their shoes for "Team Phil," named in honor of 25-year-old Phil Masterson, who died in September of 2011.

Tina Siegel, a close family friend, ran the 26.2 mile race in Masterson's honor last year and raised $4,500 for his memorial fund.

This year, other runners will tackle either the marathon or the half marathon course on May 19. They hope to double their donations and give some of the money to Cornerstone of Hope, a Christian-based grief support organization in independence.

"It's such a wonderful organization. Six days a week, they offer all kinds of counseling groups," Siegel said.

The Masterson family utilized its services after their family tragedy. Georgeanne Masterson, Phil's mother, said she wasn't aware of Cornerstone before she lost a child to violence and met others in the same situation.

"They made me feel not so all alone. I was in a group of people that had the look. It's the look," Georgeanne said.

Masterson was put in a choke hold during a fight with Zachary Brody on the island. After Masterson passed out, Brody punched him, dragged his body to a nearby wooded area, covered him with a tarp and left him to die.

At the time of his death, Masterson was engaged and on track to become a Cleveland firefighter.

"We were traumatized," Georgeanne said.

Brody was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of tampering with evidence.

Siegel believes Phil will be with her during the marathon.

"I'd hope he'd be happy and proud. I feel that he is," she said.

Georgeanne is touched by the runners keeping the memory of her son alive. She said some of the money raised in Phil's honor will help the inner-city trauma outreach program.

"I am proud and humbled at the same time," she said.

After the marathon, a benefit for the Masterson Memorial Fund will take place from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at P.J. McIntyre's Irish Pub at 17119 Lorain Avenue in Cleveland.

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