Running in memory of Krista
Krista would have been so proud.
More than 800 runners took to Pembroke streets Saturday to continue the incredible work started by Krista Johnson, the devoted and energetic community activist who launched an ambitious fundraiser three years ago in hopes of inspiring young people to embrace a healthier, more positive future.
The Krista Memorial Run for Change raised an estimated $15,000, however, organizers were equally impressed with the turnout as over 1,000 people gathered at Riverside Park for this inaugural event many expect will be Pembroke's own version of the Ottawa Race Weekend.
Every half hour, phalanxes of runners lined up to eagerly embark on one of four different routes: a five-kilometre and 10-kilometre dash, a two-kilometre family stroll, or the more challenging 21.1-kilometre half marathon.
While her family, friends, and those of us touched by Krista obviously feel a heaviness in their collective hearts for the beautiful 27-year-old Carleton University student, this sunny and warm day was not only about honouring her memory but carrying on the work she started.
The showcase of the day was the official unveiling of the Krista Johnson Fitness Grove, an outdoor gym consisting of a collection of maintenance-free workout equipment located in Riverside Park beside the arboretum at the end of the Kiwanis Walkway.
"This was a vision of Krista's," her mother, Laurie Johnson, told the crowd as a bright red ribbon was stretched out in front of the park for the ribbon-cutting. "It was her dream to have people active at no cost."
Flanked by Krista's father, Chris, and brother, Bradley, Johnson thanked the countless volunteers who helped organize and coordinate the run and those who built this special fitness park. She thanked the participants for their time and effort adding her daughter would have been overwhelmed to see this kind of community facility come to fruition.
"She would hoping you would be here because you are now committed to leading a healthier lifestyle," she said. "I know she is here and she's beaming. She's smiling and she's saying 'be safe, surround yourself with people you care about and keep moving.'"
An avid runner and cyclist, Krista was dedicated to her community and promoting physical fitness. She had conducted numerous fitness boot camps at the Pembroke marina, devised and ran a healthy minds/healthy body type program for young girls called "Live it Up," and established a "Walk and Talk" group with seniors. Mayor Ed Jacyno said Krista left behind a lasting legacy for which the community is grateful.
"This day is about Krista Johnson and the heroes today that ran in her memory," said Jacyno. "Krista will never be forgotten in our community. Anytime someone uses this wonderful display of physical fitness equipment they will not only be using it but thinking of her. Krista, I feel your spirit and we cut this ribbon in your memory."
The Run for Change began as a concept three years ago when Krista approached the Grind Youth Group with a plan to raise funds to support youth and physical fitness activities. She originally told Grind board member John Markus and program director Jerry Novack she believed they could raise $1,000 in their first charity run. Krista had worked for Family and Children's Services, first as a summer camp coordinator and then as a youth program director. She envisioned a youth program that combined fitness but she didn't have a venue. In the Grind, she immediately saw an opportunity where her skills and connections in the fitness world could be combined with her previous work experience.
"Krista said she thought she could raise a thousand," said Markus, "So we were blown away because the first year it was over $5,000. Last year it grew again and this year we can't believe it."
Funds raised from the Run for Change will go towards The Grind Youth Centre and other community projects. The Johnson family also hopes to add more pieces of fitness equipment to the Groove and, perhaps, install another one within the community.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist