Upon crossing the finish line, Megan Barnes tossed the sunflower she had been clutching into the air.
“This is all for you, Chelsea,” shouted the 17-year-old San Diego runner as she looked up at the sky. “We miss you. You’re in our hearts.”
Barnes wasn’t the only one feeling the spirit of Finish Chelsea’s Run. An estimated 6,000-plus runners, walkers and stroller-pushers cheered, clapped and high-fived each other along the 3.1-mile course at Balboa Park on Saturday morning.
“I never met Chelsea, but I feel like I know her. She’s a real inspiration to all of us,” said Barnes, wiping sweat from her forehead. “I’m glad so many people are here to celebrate her.”
The third annual 5K run/walk is dedicated to the memory of Poway teen Chelsea King, who was killed in 2010 by a registered sex offender while on a training run in Rancho Bernardo Community Park.
Nelvin C. Cepeda
Kelly King gets excited as runners near the finish line in the third annual Finish Chelsea's Run in honor of her daughter, Chelsea King, at Balboa Park.
Kelly King gets excited as runners near the finish line in the third annual Finish Chelsea's Run in honor of her daughter, Chelsea King, at Balboa Park. (Nelvin C. Cepeda)
“Seeing all the people at the race just takes your breath away,” said Chelsea’s mother, Kelly King, who gave hugs and warm smiles to well-wishers at the event.
She, along with her husband Brent and son Tyler, came back to San Diego from Illinois for the run.
“I can’t begin to describe what this has meant to our lives, our spirit and our souls,” she said. “It’s one of the most joyful things that has happened since we lost Chelsea.”
The official starter of this year’s run was Allison Cave, Amber Dubois’ little sister. In 2009, Dubois was abducted and slain by the same man who killed Chelsea a year later, John Gardner.
The first Finish Chelsea’s Run was in March 2010, when more than 3,500 local runners met at the Rancho Bernardo Community Park to complete the run the athletic Poway High School senior had started when she was attacked and killed just weeks earlier. That outpouring of support convinced the Kings to turn a spontaneous community event into an annual charity run in honor of their daughter.
“The race is not only a tribute to Chelsea, but it’s also a tribute to this community with all its compassion and hope and spirit that says we want to protect our kids,” Brent King said.
Proceeds from the run benefit Chelsea’s Light, a foundation started by the Kings to award scholarships to San Diego students and spread awareness of Chelsea’s Law, which calls for tougher sentences for sex criminals.
“This is my second Chelsea’s Run. I’m doing this for my daughter and all children,” said Allison Schuler of Chula Vista, as she pushed a stroller carrying her 18-month-old daughter, Kiera. “If doing something like this can help support better child protection and safety, then I’d do a run every week if I had to.”
The foundation’s Sunflower Scholarship Fund — named after Chelsea’s favorite bloom — awards academic scholarships to 10 college-bound San Diego high school seniors annually. In the past two years, over $130,000 in scholarships have been awarded. Last year more than 300 students from 73 schools sent in essay applications, each read by the King family. The scholarships range from $2,000 to $10,000.
“We look for kids who love to give back and just want to brighten everyone else’s day,” Brent King said. “There’s a whole lot of really incredible kids across San Diego, and they bring all of us hope for the next generation. These kids are the change-makers in action.”
One of those kids is John Zamora, 18, a 2012 recipient of a Sunflower Scholarship.
“I’m am so grateful to be part of Chelsea’s Light’s mission — to help protect our youth,” said the Poway High School graduate who now attends the University of Southern California.
In addition to academic scholarships, the foundation has awarded a number of Joie de Vivre, or “joy of life,” scholarships to enable children with financial need to experience extracurricular activities that they otherwise couldn’t afford.
“It’s our way of letting kids know that there’s more to being a student than just grades. There’s joy and spirit and fun,” Kelly said.
Academic scholarship applications for 2013 must be received by March 9, and Joie de Vivre applications may be submitted any time. Both applications are available at chelseaslight.org.
In addition to the run/walk, a family festival near the finish line featured healthy snacks and live music by the bands Kiley, Sleepless Pacific and Crossroads. There were activity stations for children to assemble wooden tool boxes, paint clay pots and have fingernails painted orange and blue, Chelsea’s favorite colors.
So, what would Chelsea think of this yearly event in her honor?
Brent King smiled broadly: “She’d say, ‘Hey, great job, but we have a heck of a lot more to do. We’ve only just begun.’”
Старик заворочался. - Qu'est-ce… quelle heureest… - Он медленно открыл глаза, посмотрел на Беккера и скорчил гримасу, недовольный тем, что его потревожили. - Qu'est-ce-que vous voulez.