Such has been the case for the annual Hailey Rath Memorial Event held again for the fifth time this past Saturday.
Runners, walkers, supporters, family members and volunteers showed up by the hundreds to usher in the events of the day, which began with a 5k walk/run at the Rock restaurant in Beloit.
Hailey, daughter of Jeff and Lisa Rath, was killed in a traffic accident in 2005 at the age of 13.
In their sorrow, the grieving parents decided though their daughter’s life had ended, there still was something they could do to help others.
Through organ donation, 75 other people have been given hope for a better life because of the Raths’ decision.
And, the family has become advocates for organ procurement and education.
The annual memorial event is held to help educate people about organ donation as well as to raise money for worthy causes.
“They are a wonderful family — this is a wonderful purpose,” said race entrant Belinda Schultz-Noack.
Friends Michelle Voit of Beloit and Denise Elder of Janesville chatted quietly while they waited for the day’s events to unfold.
“We just think it’s outstanding that the family turned something so tragic into something so beneficial for so many people,” Voit said.
As the race participants pinned on their numbers for the 7:30 a.m. run and walk, Mother Nature was closing in fast with steely gray clouds and cool temperatures.
Still, most runners, generally, a hardy breed, didn’t seem to flinch at the overhead threat.
“This is perfect running weather — cool and cloudy,” said Brandi Hawley, who ran with her husband, Brian.
Besides the fact they are runners, the Hawleys said they were there because “It’s a good cause.”
Under one tent was a representative from the organ procurement organization with pamphlets for people and handouts about organ donation.
As the race start drew near, Jeff Rath welcomed participants said their purpose on this day was to keep the memory of Hailey alive. He sang a rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and then, the race began.
As the first runners approached the finish line, big drops of rain fell, soon followed by thunder and showers pouring down.
“Some folks got stranded, some found shelter and volunteers went out and picked up some. Others kept going,” Jeff Rath said. The course followed the Rock River along Riverside Park, up Portland Avenue to Fourth Street and back to the Rock.
The proceeds from this year’s event will benefit University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics organ procurement organization, Beloit Area ELCA Lutheran Youth and Lutherdale Bible Camp. Total numbers for participants and funds raised from Saturday were still be calculated as of press time today.
Due to connections the Raths have made with the organ procurement organization, the Raths will be going to the Rose Bowl game this year. And, 13 inch by 13 inch glass-covered plaque containing a picture of Hailey and medals for her contributions to humanity will be featured on a float at the Rose Bowl Parade.
The plaque is made of barn wood the Raths gave to friend Wayne Endtoft who then crafted the pieces together.
On the medals it states: “In honor of Hailey Rath who gave the gift of life.”