Fall is a great time to get out and enjoy the outdoors in northeast Pennsylvania – especially when the occasion benefits a great cause.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, the PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience) teams serving the Riverside and Carbondale Area school districts, in partnership with Lackawanna Heritage Valley, will hold the group’s annual Kristy Ryczak Memorial 5K Run/Fun Walk.

The event begins at 9 a.m. at the Olive Street Trailhead on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail in Scranton. Registration will take place from 7:30-8:30 a.m.

Admission costs $25 for adults and $15 for children 16 and younger.

Proceeds from the event will be used for PROSPER evidence-based drug and alcohol prevention programs in the Carbondale Area and Riverside school districts, specifically the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14, and the LifeSkills Training Program taught by teachers during the school day.

Besides the overall male and female winners, medals will be given to the first-, second- and third-place winners for males and females in seven different age categories. Also, all children under 16 will receive a medal.

Participants can register online at, or request a registration form by calling Penn State Extension at 570-963-6842.

This is the sixth run overall, and the second one since being renamed in memory of Kristy Ryczak, a former Carbondale PROSPER team member and PROSPER 5K committee member. A tireless advocate of the PROSPER approach, Ryczak was a true champion of local families and children, as well as an avid runner.

“Kristy served on the Carbondale PROSPER team for eight years as a community representative from EOTC, now known as Outreach. She was a great fit for the team because she managed Outreach’s the Incredible Years Program, an evidence-based prevention program for families with younger children ages birth – 12,” said Karen Thomas, food, families and health educator at Penn State Extension, which oversees the local implementation of PROSPER. “She was the type of person you could always count on. She truly believed in our work to prevent adolescent substance use and to build strong families and develop resilient youth.”

Implemented at Carbondale in 2001 and Riverside in 2015, PROSPER brings evidence-based prevention programs to communities, with a specific focus on strengthening parent-child relations and problem-solving, building youth life skills, and teaching youth to avoid peer pressure or dangerous behaviors. It’s funded by Lackawanna County Office of Youth and Family Services, as well as via fundraisers like the run.

Among PROSPER’s initiatives is the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14, a free seven-session program designed to reduce adolescent substance abuse and other destructive behaviors. The evening program includes dinner, prizes for attendance and free childcare for younger family members. New sessions are slated to begin in early October.

PROSPER is no doubt serving a critical need locally, Thomas said, noting the program was recently expanded to include the Forest City Regional, Wallenpaupack, Wayne Highlands and Western Wayne school districts.

“We know that implementing scientifically proven effective prevention programs using the PROSPER delivery system works,” Thomas said. “Research shows that through our programs, we’ve reduced adolescent substance use including prescription drug misuse, as well as increased family communication, family problem solving and strengthen bonds between the parent and child.”


If you go

  • What: Kristy Ryczak Memorial 5K Run/Fun Walk benefiting PROSPER
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m.
  • Where: Olive Street Trailhead, Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, Scranton
  • Details: Participants can register online at, or obtain a registration form by calling Penn State Extension at 570-963-6842.