Sara Scheetz: A Big Life as a Runner, Business Owner, and Philanthropist

Sara Scheetz is getting ready for her first marathon in April of 2018. It’s one of many types of successes she has had in her life, including her business, her volunteering and her family. In the area of running, however, it’s been a long road.

“Two and a half years ago I was severely overweight, 190 pounds more than I am now,” Scheetz recalls.

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Sara Scheetz is pictured in a race after running off her first 50 pounds. Photo courtesy: Sara Scheetz

Although she had been active in her life in some ways, “I would eat really crappy,” she says, and all that ended up in so much extra weight that she began to realize she was watching life from the sidelines.

“I wasn’t living life. I was literally sitting and watching it go by,” she says, remembering her husband taking her kids on hikes while she stayed at home.

But it wasn’t until she wanted to treat her mother and bought two expensive tickets for a show in Seattle that her life changed. She didn’t fit into the seat, not even sideways. The manager of the theater could only offer her seats in the handicapped section much farther from the stage. “I cried,” Sara shares.

At that point she made herself a promise: she would run a 5K every month. She was 380 pounds. That was in 2015, and, by the end of the year, she had run eighteen 5Ks and made some good friends in the process. She and some friends participated in the New Year’s Eve run. By October, she ran a half marathon. “I ran- walked it,” Scheetz says. By then she had lost nearly 100 pounds.

“My goal is to be able to run in every state,” Scheetz explains.

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Sara Scheetz looks good in a recent race. Photo courtesy: Sara Scheetz

But in 2016 she wanted a different type of challenge, so she tried a triathlon. “I realized I like the triathlons more than I like running.”

She’s progressed, and in 2017 she competed in an Olympic distance triathlon, which includes one mile of swimming, 24 miles of bicycling and 6.1 miles of running.

“I’ve had people tell me ‘I can’t even do a 5K.’ I tell them ‘You can do it.’” Scheetz advises, “You have to not be afraid of being slow or of what people think. The racing community and tri community are so supportive. It was huge for me.”

She shares what she can of her running with her family, a husband she’s had since high school and two boys, 15 and 11 years old, that join in the races occasionally. “They’re kind of picky. It has to have a good theme.” They’re likely to be with her on the costume runs, for instance.

“We try to do it all as a family,” says Scheetz of maximizing time with her kids while training.

She squeezes in practice around the kids’ schedules as much as possible, bringing her shoes to their swim meets so she can run between their actual trials. In terms of juggling it all, Scheetz says, “You’ve got to get creative.”

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Sara Scheetz and Jodie Zelazny started A Caring Closet in 2015. The pair is shown her at the Senior Heroes luncheon. Photo courtesy: Sara Scheetz

Keeping with the family spirit, she helps her mother run At Your Place Senior Care. Started in 2007, they help people with what they call “custom-tailored assisted living services.”

When a loved one needs extra help, the options can be overwhelming. There are 300 family homes in Clark County and 15 assisted living facilities. Scheetz and her mother help the family caregiver navigate the acronyms and decide which is appropriate: independent living, assisted living or memory care. The decision of care level is based on the health and prognosis of the client.

“We’ve done all the research for them, such as which are the good buildings and the not-so-good (some have a high turnover),” Scheetz says. They bring their clients on tours of selected facilities and work with financial planners to ensure the choice is sustainable.

“I love my job,” says Scheetz, “but A Caring Closet is my passion.” A Caring Closet is a 501(c)(3) she started with her friend Jodie Zelazny in 2015. People donate durable medical equipment, such as walkers and hospital beds. “If people have a need for something, they get it free.”

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Sara says her grandmother is “the reason I do everything.” Photo courtesy: Sara Scheetz

Zelazny recalls how A Caring Closet started: “Sara and I worked in health care forever. People asked if we had equipment.” She wanted to provide, so her garage got full.

“Once we opened A Caring Closet, it just went crazy. We didn’t know the need was so great,” says Zelazny.

The duo got their first donations and a grant for $1,000 from South Washington Elder Abuse Prevention. That held them for six months, and then they got another grant from the Friends of Elder Justice Center for another $1,000 for six months.

They are currently renting space at Boomerang Therapy Works. The staff provides access to the equipment during the week for those who stop by.

“It’s a lifesaver for us,” says Zelazny. She and Scheetz were receiving 35 to 40 calls a week for equipment before they made the arrangement with Boomerang Therapy Works.

“We keep it really simple,” explains Scheetz. But they do have dreams of some expansion and even hiring a part-time employee.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep growing,” says Zelazny, “because the need is outrageous.”

Zelazny’s friendship with Scheetz started when Scheetz first started running in earnest. Zelazny, also a runner, describes the beginning for Scheetz as “mailbox to mailbox. It’s been fun to watch her journey.”

Scheetz does more volunteer work, sharing this can-do spirit through the NorthWest Association for Blind Athletes, guiding a visually impaired runner through a relay race, helping kayakers on Vancouver Lake and other activities.

She is inspired to work harder in her own training by these encounters. Scheetz muses, “You go to these races and see people who can’t see or who don’t have legs. I think, ‘I can do it,’ even if I’m slow and it’s going to be hard, because there are people out there who would give anything to be able to do it. Who am I not to use this body?”

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