By Mike Baird | Corpus Christi Caller-Times
CORPUS CHRISTI — Firefighter Scott Marsh talked to his daughter last year about his job's risks and his choice to be an organ donor.
Immediately Katie Marsh, 12, Googled organ donation to research it, her dad said.
"That's exactly what I'd want to do Daddy," she told him.
He didn't expect her to die weeks later.
Most kids her age don't think about those things, he said. "We thank God, Katie did."
Her choice turned her into a hero, her family said.
"It doesn't make it easier losing her, but knowing there are five people alive because of Katie, gives us some peace," her mother, Leigh Marsh, said.Katie's family and friends on Saturday will meet the family of Evelyn Rojas, 8, from North Texas who has Katie's heart; and Albina Castillo, 56, of College Station, who received Katie's liver. They are coming to participate in Kare to Excel, a 7:30 a.m. 8K run or 5K run/walk organized by Katie's friends. The event is to raise money for Katie's Korner, an area in the Baker Middle School library where students can read, study or remember Katie.
Katie's friends gush when they talk about her.
"Katie found fun in everything," said classmate Sophie Susser, 12. "This run is a good way to honor her.
"She would never do wrong by anyone or talk behind their backs, yet Katie was honest and would tell someone if they were being annoying."
Sophie and other classmates were at summer camp when they learned of Katie's death.
"It was an ordinary day at camp, I was playing dodge ball, when our parents showed up crying," Holden Hopkins, 13, said. "After I learned, I exploded into tears.
"I probably drove Katie crazy more than anyone, but now I think of her at lunch with her head tilted back and her laugh echoing through the lunchroom. Katie inspired people by leading her life to the fullest."
Katie's accomplishments were many:
n A Corpus Christi Cathedral Choir member
n A school running club member
n She read more than 1,400 books while at Baker Middle and Windsor Park Elementary schools
n She held student leadership roles
n She wrote two letters to the editor published by the Caller-Times
n She organized a team for the 2011 Beach to bay Relay Marathon
Kyle Kane, one of few friends who could run faster than Katie, led the charge to initiate the fundraising run.
It wasn't until the school year, after seeing an editorial she wrote about wanting people to live healthier lives that we decided to do the run to encourage people to be healthy," Kyle, 13, said. "She did what she thought was right. Now we've done what we think is right to honor her."
More than 200 people have preregistered for the event and more than a dozen sponsors made contributions ranging from $100 to $1,000.
Katie's 13th birthday would have been last Sunday.
"It was a tough day," her mother said, "and I'm sure the walk will be, too. But I can't wait to meet her organ recipients. I'll smile through my tears."
Castillo, who received Katie's liver June 24, has been building her strength on a treadmill.
"I'm going to walk whatever amount I can for this little girl's family," she said. "I'm living a normal life because of this courageous child."
Castillo contracted hepatitis C after a blood transfusion as a child, which slowly destroyed her liver, placing her on a transplant list for more than 10 years.
"I was not going to make it," Castillo said. "It's a miracle I'm still alive."
When she got the call about 1 a.m. that Katie's liver was available, she had to borrow money from her brother for her daughter to drive her three hours to Dallas for the 8-hour transplant.
Castillo, who lives on $674 Social Security disability monthly, is bringing encyclopedias for the library.
"It's all I have to give," she said. "They can use them or sell them to buy what they want.
"I cannot say more than thank you, and it's not enough."
IF YOU GO
What: Kare to Excel 8K run; 5K run/walk
When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday
Where: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi field house on campus
Why: Funding for Katie's Korner, a reading area in Baker Middle School library
Runs: 5K youth run (14 and younger);5K walk (open to all ages);8K adult run
Entry fees: $15 per person for 5K; $20 per person for 8K;Race day registration $20
Registration: Today at Fleet Feet, 514 Everhart Road, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.;Race day registration: 6:30 to 7:15 a.m.
Source: Kare to Excel organizers