Maria Olberding was born in Cincinnati in November 1966 and lived in this region her entire life. She was raised in a big, close and happy family with her parents (Don and Irma), her siblings (Steve, Doug, Mike, Bill and Patti), and lots of uncles, aunts and cousins. Maria is an alumna of Roger Bacon High School (’85) and Xavier University (’90). She was a member of the first women’s cross-country team at Roger Bacon High School. Through it all, she was known and loved for her wit and humor, her sense of adventure and fun, and her sincere caring for others.
During summer breaks from college, Maria had “the best job in the world,” working as a lifeguard at The Beach Waterpark. After graduating from Xavier, she took a year-round position at The Beach in group sales, where she helped start Reggae Sundays with live music near the wave pool. In her free time, she enjoyed travelling to real beaches and other places around the world, including Mexico and Italy.
In 1994, Maria started training for a marathon with the hope of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. One Sunday evening, she went on a run near her home and, sadly, she was slain near Ault Park. Devasted by the loss, Maria’s family and friends decided to start the Reggae Run to celebrate her life and “to turn a negative into a positive.” In October 1994 – the first year of the event – they thought a few hundred people would participate, but nearly 3,000 people showed up! Since then, the number of participants has been anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 participants, depending on the year and the weather.
The Olberding family and friends believe the Reggae Run captures who Maria was and what she liked – music, running, family, friends, laughter, love and helping others. Since 1994, it has raised more than $1 million for nonprofit organizations that help children in Greater Cincinnati.
The Reggae Run has been identified as one of the best fundraising events by Cincinnati CityBeat readers, and it has gained some national attention. For example, over the years, it has been featured in a few articles in Runner’s World, which is the nation’s most popular running magazine. Also, this event has attracted participants from almost all 50 states and even a few foreign countries.
The Reggae Run is supported more than 700 volunteers each year and a nonprofit foundation set up in Maria's memory. The Maria Olberding Foundation gratefully accepts tax-deductible donations year-round. Please send checks or money orders to the following address or call the following number for other forms of payment:
The Maria Olberding Foundation
P.O. Box 54424
Cincinnati, OH 45254-0424
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