PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 18, 22 runners take off from the northern tip of Haiti.

Only 10 would finish a grueling marathon that spans 230 miles in seven days. One of them is Matt Mauclair of Aspinwall. He says they ran to raise funds for families living in poverty, on an island resplendent with beauty.

“The real challenge was separating the emotional side from what we were doing at the moment. It turned out to be really tough. Tougher than we expected,” he said.

They pounded their way through a land which has weathered an unceasing string of hurricanes and earthquakes. Yet villagers greeted the runners with joy.

“It’s an energetic country,” the runner says. “The passion for life is there. And each person we met, most of them had a smile, and were relatively grateful that we were there.”

He says the runners took one day off to meet residents of a tiny village.

“It housed some of our families that Team Tassy supports,” he said.

Team Tassy is named for a young Haitian whose dangerous tumor was removed by surgeons in Pittsburgh. Tassy enrolled in a science program at La Roche College, to learn how to help his homeland.

“What we did in Haiti,” Mauclair says, “was try to help change a country, help change a culture. It was a perspective altering trip.”

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The runners raised thousands of dollars in pledges, funds that will go directly to families. At the end of the run, they enjoyed a cleansing dip in the Caribbean.

“Whatever you took away from it, you still had in your heart, but let’s just wash it off, and start anew,” Mauclair said.

Contributions may still be made by logging on to: www.teamtassy.org/run-across-haiti