A South Surrey couple who launched a run nearly a decade ago in memory of their daughter says it’s time the event’s footprint expanded.
It’s been nine years since the first Forever Young Run paced off, inspired by the tragic deaths in 2003 of Joah Atkinson and her boyfriend Brian Collins, who were struck by a minivan as they walked in a Calgary crosswalk.
Always a source of comfort for those who knew the couple – including many Peninsula residents who went to school and played rugby with Joah – the run this year took on even deeper meaning, as many who turned out arrived grieving the painfully fresh losses of other young friends.
“It was all about what was going on in White Rock this year… all of these losses that we’ve had,” said Tim Atkinson, Joah’s dad, referring to last month’s deaths of Peninsula natives Dallas Smith, Lauren Sewell and Ben Trompetter.
Smith, 30, and Sewell, 24, died after a four-seat Piper Twin Commanche that the couple were passengers in crashed near Kelowna on Aug. 13. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene; Sewell died from her injuries a day later.
Trompetter, 27, died Aug. 17 after free-climbing a cliff northeast of Pemberton to jump into Anderson Lake.
The Forever Young Run, a fundraiser for student-athlete scholarships, was held in Sicamous Sept. 2, three days after friends and family paid tribute to Trompetter in a service at Peace Portal Alliance Church.
“There were so many kids that (participated in the run) that had stayed for Ben’s funeral,” Atkinson said. “Some of them were devastated from both (Trompetter’s and Smith’s) funerals.
“They were hurting, yet they knew… they had to be there to work this through with each other.”
Run participant Jamie Carle described by email how the recent deaths of his friends gave him greater perspective on the weight and importance of the event.
“It’s up to us to carry on the torch for those who no longer can to spread light, love and happiness in the world,” Carle writes.
“It’s important to honour those who’ve impacted and changed us. It’s also important to take the energy from honoring those persons and use it to affect and impact as many people as possible in a positive manner in our lifetimes.
“This event celebrates everything that matters in life.”
Joah’s sister, Lena, said in light of the recent tragedies, $750 raised through a 50/50 draw conducted at this year’s run will be split between Smith’s and Trompetter’s families.
Going forward, Tim Atkinson said the hope is take the support even further, growing the event into a destination run for Sicamous and inviting charities that honour other young lives lost to join the Forever Young Run banner.
“That will be a great legacy for Brian and Joah,” he said.
There are some things about the run, however, that would not change. Joah’s mom, Cease, says it must start and end at the same place in Sicamous, with a gathering at the end of the day.
And, it will always be about remembering.
“It’s running and remembering, because that what you do,” said Cease.