Run Today For Tomorrow draws a crowd to Ottawa riverfront

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217 participants help raise funds for suicide awareness

It’s tough to consider something a success when it’s something you wish you didn’t have to do at all.

Emily Hardee knows that feeling, but she and her friends keep reeling out successes that affect hopefully more and more people every year. Run Today For Tomorrow, a suicide awareness 5K run/walk now in its fifth year, drew to the Ottawa riverfront on Saturday morning 217 registered participants and countless other family members, fans and citizens whose lives have been touched by such a tragedy.

“It’s not just me doing this. It’s the community, the volunteers, the sponsors, the donors. Nothing happens without the community.”

—  Emily Hardee, organizer of Run Today For Tomorrow

And with any luck, the effort will exceed the $15,500 in mental-health entity and scholarship funds it raised a year ago.

“It’s a great turnout,” Hardee said. “It’s not at all what I was expecting because with early registration, we had only 42 signed up. I said ‘Oh, my gosh!’ … I never know what to expect each year, but I’m just very grateful that so many people here are joining us.

“But it’s also heartbreaking so many people show up, that suicide and mental health issues affect so many people. More and more come up to me every year. Just heartbreaking.”

Hardee founded the annual run/walk to pay homage to her cousin, Molly Yacko, who died of suicide in 2018. She admitted that the event is turning out to be more than she ever expected.

“I just wanted to find a way to breathe again,” Hardee said. “It’s hard to explain what grief does to you. It feels like something sitting on your chest and you can’t breathe, and this is my way to be able to breathe again, by bringing help and bringing hope to others.

 “It’s not just me doing this. It’s the community, the volunteers, the sponsors, the donors. Nothing happens without the community … We can’t do everything, but we can do a little bit.”

When finally tabulated later this week, those funds will be handed over to the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation, which will work with Hardee and her associates from now until the end of July collecting and processing grant applications from qualified mental health facilities and entities that will help the community.

It also will be accepting applications for a scholarship, which will be awarded to a student who will major in a mental health field in college next fall.

The winner of the first such scholarship was Chesney Auter, a graduate of Earlville High School.

The run itself was won in a good distance by Seneca High School boys and girls cross country coach Kim Foster, who appreciated the larger meaning of the day.

She lost of one of her former athletes, Trevor Till, to suicide back in 2020.

“My time was OK for the heat, but I kept looking around for Lucas,” laughed Foster, referring to the past champion Lucas Hoffman.

“I’m not here for the PR, though. Every race I run, I run with meaning and this one means a lot. Sadly enough, suicide has touched just about everyone’s life. If we only knew … I ran this one today for Molly and ran it for Trevor, too.”

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