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Run honors teen killed by hit-and-run driver in Darien

In the weeks after the death of Connor Lynskey, killed in Darien in a hit-and-run accident blamed on drunken driving, his family looked for a way to reaffirm an inspired teenager's sense of purpose.

Lynskey, 18, a student at Siena College, had already been accepted into a program that trains rural doctors at the SUNY Upstate Medical University, near Syracuse. He was guided in that vision by his older brother, Michael Lynskey Jr., a third-year medical student at the same school.

Maybe a week and a half after Connor died, a running friend of Don Lynskey, the young man's uncle, had a suggestion that made powerful sense.

Considering the majesty of the landscape surrounding the Lynskey home, he asked, "Why don't you do a run?"

Connor’s parents, Michael Sr. and Donna Lynskey, embraced the idea. The result will be the first “Connor’s Way,” a 5-mile walk and run on Oct. 13 through the Adirondack foothills in Hinckley, near the Lynskey home in Herkimer County.

The family is distributing a video created by a cousin, Kelly Gaffney Lasher, that illustrates the rustic beauty of the course. Proceeds will go toward a scholarship the family is developing to benefit SUNY Upstate Medical University's Rural Medical Scholars Program, which trains physicians who work far from major cities.

“These are the same trails Connor used to run,” said Don Lynskey, who started last July’s 9.3-mile Boilermaker Run in Utica with a group that included his nephew. They did not run side by side for long. Connor, a standout soccer player, soon hit the jets and finished strong alongside another cousin, Greg Lynskey.

Connor died in August, barely a month after the Boilermaker Run. He had traveled with some companions to a Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake. They were walking back to their campsite at Darien Lake, according to Genesee County Sheriff's Office investigators, when Connor ran ahead, hoping to catch up with another group of friends.

Jennifer Serrano, 48, of Irving in Chautauqua County, allegedly struck him with her vehicle and then drove away, leaving Lynskey on the side of the road, in a ditch. His friends called for help when he did not return to their camp, but searchers were unable to find him until the morning.

Serrano has been indicted on charges of vehicular manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

For Michael and Donna Lynskey, thoughts of their son – a class president for four years at Holland Patent High School – dying in such a way would have been unbearable without an outpouring of consolation and support throughout upstate New York.

Sean Kirst: In Darien, hit-and-run driver cut short a life filled with promise

Last weekend, Siena invited the family for two Masses said in Connor Lynskey’s honor, including an outdoor service at a campus grotto he especially loved. The family hopes the run will be another means of channeling such passionate community concern. Registration fees, through Oct. 7, are $30 for runners and $20 for walkers.

As for the larger meaning of the event, Don Lynskey spoke of how Connor’s younger sister, Meghan, receives treatment for complications linked to type one diabetes. Those problems were not correctly recognized until Meghan went to Syracuse to receive care from physicians at SUNY Upstate, Don said, a journey of more than 60 miles from her home.

That situation triggered Connor Lynskey’s vow to dedicate his career to better care for patients in areas far away from major medical centers.

The race, his family hopes, will reignite that dream.

“We want to honor Connor’s memory for a long time,” Don said. “It’s our way to hold him close.”

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo News. Email him at skirst@buffnews.com or read more of his work in this archive.

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