About 250 runners joined the family of Cameron Gallagher — a Henrico County teenager who died soon after crossing the finish line of last year’s Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach — in returning to the event this year to run in her honor.
The group raised about $35,000 at Sunday’s race, said Cameron’s father, David Gallagher, who with his wife Grace ran the same course his daughter did the day she died.
“We try not to see this as the place we lost Cameron. ... This is the birthplace of where Cameron made her legacy,” he said.
He said there were several points along the course where it felt like they were reliving the tragedy.
“We knew it would be a hard race. We knew it would be emotional and impactful,” he said.
The money raised will go toward the Cameron Gallagher Memorial Foundation, which began after the family found notes about a 5K race Cameron had been planning in order to raise awareness about depression, a mental illness she struggled with herself.
Cameron ran the half marathon March 16, 2014, with her friend Abby Donelson. She collapsed at the finish line and died that evening of what the medical examiner later deemed cardiac arrhythmia linked to exhaustion and dehydration.
Donelson returned to the race this year with her stepfather to run the full marathon. Several of her friends from Freeman High School’s cross country and track teams ran the last few miles with her to the finish line. Donelson, 17, was also running in honor of her father who died of cancer when she was 8. She spoke the previous evening at a gala for Comfort Zone Camp, a camp for children who have lost a family member.
“Through both losses, I kind of found out one of the ways I cope with a loss is I like to help people,” she said. “(The second half of the race) was the hardest part for me because it’s the exact route that Cameron and I did last year. It was beautiful.”
She passed key points on the course that triggered memories of Cameron. The spot where Cameron stopped to take off her sweater. The stretch where Donelson sang the One Direction song “What Makes You Beautiful” in Cameron’s ear before she teasingly told her to stop. Then came the point on the path that inspired the foundation’s mantra. The pair had stopped to stretch because Cameron’s legs were tightening up near the 12-mile mark. Soon after, Cameron told her running buddy, “Let’s finish this.”
“Throughout the entire run I told myself I had Cameron on one shoulder and my Dad on the other cheering me on,” Donelson said.
The Gallagher family and supporters set up a booth at the race expo to raise awareness about depression.
Roughly 3,500 runners, joggers, shufflers and walkers spent part of a lovely late summer mor…
PHOTOS: Speak Up 5K
Nearly 3,500 runners and walkers celebrated the life of Cameron Gallagher during the inaugural Speak Up 5K in Richmond's Byrd Park on Saturday, Sept. 6. The $150,000 raised will go toward the Virginia Treatment Center for Children for children in mental health crises. The organizers plan for this run to become an annual event for the Saturday after Labor Day. Read the full report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.