March 6, 2014

Finish Chelsea's Run

It’s been only four years since the murder of 17-year-old Chelsea King, a local Poway student whose story made national headlines, but her impact continues to affect many lives to this day. In 2011, Chelsea’s Law passed in California, helping to protect the youth from sexual predators. In raising awareness, Chelsea’s Light Foundation has been created to empower community members and to prolong innocence for children.

Chelsea’s Light Foundation has adopted annually “Finish Chelsea’s Run” 5K run/walk that originally began when community members came together to honor, remember and make change happen because of Chelsea.  As this run has evolved, they have partnered up with the Girls Scouts of San Diego, and together they raise money for scholarships eligible to college-bound kids in San Diego.

Recently, San Diego Sign Company got the opportunity to donate banners and blue custom table throws for the 4th annual Finish Chelsea’s Run 5K run/walk that now takes place in beautiful and historic Balboa Park. In reciprocation, Finish Chelsea’s Run gave us a few complimentary sponsorship tickets to join, taking place last Saturday, March 1, 2014.  I decided I would go represent our company and get some exercise with two co-workers.

This particular Saturday morning was the first morning in quite a while that I was awake before my kids (and husband), at 5am. I suppose I was motivated to redeem my one-time chance to experience something new, be part of something larger than myself, and bond with co-workers in a way I never could on the clock.

On my early morning drive there, I couldn’t help but notice the gray clouds fill every inch of sky.   It’s strange that the rest of the United States has been dealing with too much precipitation this winter, and yet we linger in an extreme drought in the Southwest. Though it wasn’t raining currently, our dry-spell was broken the day before with light rains.  Wondering if it was going to rain again, I saw a lone seagull soaring above heading west toward the beach.  I drove on, parallel to his flight.

I came up to the 6th Avenue side of Balboa Park, and parked in the VIP parking lot as part of our sponsorship privileges. This was a special treat since Southern California will be forever-crowded, and parking is always a problem. I finally met up with my co-workers, after getting lost in a sea of casita canopy tents and thousands of people in the crowd. Then, we checked-in to get our running bibs and free commemorative shirts.

Before the run began, a little girl sang the National Anthem.  Everyone respectfully stood still, listening to her sweet, small voice.  Then, all eyes turned toward performers on pogo sticks doing extreme tricks while we waited for the announcer’s cue to start. Shortly thereafter, we joined the masses and took off on route, walking. Along the way, there were kids from local high schools to entertain us like cheerleaders and french horn players as well as other kids handing out cups of water. It was a family-fun-filled atmosphere; it was very nice.

We were still on foot when it started to rain.  Now, this rain wasn’t the usual San Diego light drizzle, coming down just to muck up our wild-west-dirt-powdered cars and teasing us of a substantial rainfall.   It rained hard—it was pouring.  I began to feel a little dreadful, soaking wet from walking in the rain.  Arriving at the finish line, our conversation was halted when a young man shouted, “one-ten,” our finishing time.  We walked right over the mostly washed away blue and yellow sidewalk chalk, displaying a quote loved by Chelsea, “They can because they think they can!”  At that moment, as uncomfortable as I was, I could hardly think of anything more dreadful than losing a child.  

For how much it doesn’t rain here, it’s interesting that it downpoured on that day. Call it what you will, but to think of it as significant metaphorically is appealing.  In the memory of Chelsea, and all the innocent children who have been preyed upon, the rain was only appropriate to remind us of the sorrow surely still endured by family and friends.  

Despite the rain, it was a very uplifting event.  With over 5,000 participants that showed up that day, it is heartwarming to know that people do care; good is being nurtured in the world.

When the story of Chelsea King came about in the news in 2010, it's just like anything—you don't know her, so you don't feel the impact. Who knew that I'd be working at a sign company that would donate banners to the 4th annual 5K run and I'd get to go? Realizing how everything and everyone is connected, this is my butterfly effect example. Chelsea King has affected me, inadvertently, long after her death.

By Victoria Rodriguez

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