She was attacked by Africanized “killer” bees. So often was she stung by scorpions that it was nearly routine. Prior to a San Diego Red Dress Run, a crazed motorist drove into a crowd. In her successful attempt to sweep a child from the danger, she was struck (which explains her absence that year). She even escaped from an attempt on her life. But it was her lifelong struggle with asthma that took her from us. A massive dust cloud known as a haboob entered the Maricopa Valley, which includes Phoenix and the suburb of Mesa, where she lived. Amid the dust, she fought for several days and believing that she had turned the corner, decided to get a few hours of sleep (two hours per night was her norm). She died in her sleep during the early morning hours of April 13, 2013, leaving behind her a rich and important legacy.
As Hash House Harriers, we remember Donna Rhinehart as The Lady in Red, noted for inspiring the Red Dress Run (breaking a glass ceiling in the process) and for her role in ensuring charity would forever be associated with this now global event.
A family tradition
Helping others was a value taught to her by her parents’ examples. While serving as a paratrooper with the famed “Band of Brothers” of Easy Company during World War II, her father won a house in the French Riviera in a poker game. While visiting it on leave, he met a dispossessed family and gave it to them. Relatives in Poland risked their lives to throw bread over the fence at Auschwitz. She was raised to believe that such acts of kindness are simply what are expected of all of us.
Changing things and breaking glass ceilings
The volunteer ranks of the local Salvation Army had thinned so much that holiday donations were on course to be far below previous years. “They were way short of men to do it,” Donna explained. The problem was, it was a job reserved for men. “[S]o I pushed my way in – changing the men-only rules. Hmm, at 15, I was already wearing red and changing things!”
“Mom made a habit of breaking glass ceilings,” said her daughter Clare. Donna became a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts when the need arose. “She insisted I, too, could be a Boy Scout with [her brother] Jeff.”
Recognizing that art was a subject not a subject adequately covered in her children’s school, Donna organized and launched an ambitious art appreciation program as a volunteer. When Schindler’s List was released, Donna believed its lessons were so important that it should be shown to the school. Working with her son Matt, they persuaded Steven Spielberg, who himself attended high school in Scottsdale, to bring and personally present the movie.
Throughout her life, she devoted herself to helping others, sometimes at great personal expense.
It should be no surprise that at the inaugural Red Dress Run on August 12, 1988, that she requested all future Red Dress Runs be used as an opportunity to benefit a charity and to give back to the communities in which we hash.