Less than one month after his daughter, Lila, died in 2001 from the inheritable genetic disease Tay-Sachs, Kevin Levine reluctantly agreed to meet his friend for a run.

Less than one month after his daughter, Lila, died in 2001 from the inheritable genetic disease Tay-Sachs, Kevin Levine reluctantly agreed to meet his friend for a run.

That first time was difficult, but Levine realized he could use running as another way to communicate the importance of preconception genetic testing, which screens for inheritable diseases such as the neurological degenerative disease that Levine's daughter had.

Lila, who died about a month before her third birthday, was never able to hug Levine or his wife, Erika, Levine said.

She never spoke. She only rolled over twice.

"It's a pretty horrific way to live and die," said Levine, who lives in Bexley and teaches at Henry Karrer Middle School in Dublin.

In his latest bid to raise awareness about the importance of genetic screening, Levine has entered "Runner's World" magazine's cover search contest, for which winners are selected based on entries that best describe contestants' "best running breakthrough moment," community votes and an interview.

The voting period ends July 20. At a minimum, Levine said he hopes to generate awareness. If he gets into the magazine, the international distribution would greatly help him.

"I want to be reaching more and more people with this message of preconception genetic testing," he said.

Tay-Sachs is one of the diseases Jewish people, as members of an ethnic group with a small gene pool, know they should get tested for, Levine said. He and his wife were aware of the risk factors and both got tested.

"It just wasn't enough, because mistakes were made," he said.

The results came back showing that Erika was a carrier. Levine's results incorrectly showed that he wasn't a carrier.

Autosomal recessive genetic disorders such as Tay-Sachs happen when a child receives copies of a mutated gene from both parents, said Jill Pluciniczak, clinical geneticist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

A person could be a carrier for a specific autosomal recessive disorder if he or she has one mutated gene in a pair. If both parents are carriers, each child they have will have a 25 percent chance of inheriting both mutated genes and inheriting the disorder.

Genetic testing is extremely important for people who are part of ethnic backgrounds in which genetic conditions are especially prevalent, Pluciniczak said.

Although there are hundreds of autosomal recessive disorders, genetic screenings -- done by blood test -- usually check for the top 20 or so disorders, typically the more devastating ones.

Genetic screenings are available to anyone, and individuals can discuss it with their primary care doctors or OB-GYNs, she said.

"The ability for us to detect the changes is getting better and better," she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

To vote for Kevin Levine in the 'Runner's World' magazine cover search contest, visit http://coversearch.runnersworld.com/entry/323/#.