Race honors Sandy Casey

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MANCHESTER — "She loved to run and she loved her kids," Steven Casey said, recalling his late daughter, Sandy. What better way to honor her memory, he said, than to raise money for special education programs?

The first-ever We Are Sandy Casey Strong 5-kilometer run and walk drew about 200 people to Burr and Burton Academy's athletic fields on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 22, including 72 folks who registered to have their running or walking efforts timed. It raised about $2,500 for special education programs at The Dorset School, which Casey attended.

Casey's sisters, Amanda Bevis, Tracy Carey and Tanya Casey, came up with the idea, and Carey organized the event along with Lisa Kelly, a former BBA teacher and the owner of Zen Revolution Spin and Yoga Studio, and Tom Klein, the cross country coach at BBA.

But as much as the race was about running, an activity Sandy Casey loved, and special education, the calling to which she dedicated her life, it was also about a community coming together to remember, and to keep her legacy alive, nearly a year after she was killed in a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas. There were tears, but there were smiles, too, as runners took advantage of a perfect fall running morning — sunny and cool, with an occasional breeze.

Events such as Saturday's run that keep Sandy's memory and legacy alive are "very powerful," her parents Steven and Theresa Casey, said.

"In the old days you'd think community was close ... as the town's gotten bigger, you'd think you lost that. The town hasn't lost that," Steven Casey said.

Bevis, who completed the course with her 15-month son, Owen, riding on her back, said the support showed at the race was another sign of how the community has embraced the family through a tough time.

"We definitely know that there are many people that have loved us through this entire year of sorrow. But having everyone here shows a lot," Bevis said. "It's a good feeling and my sister [Sandy] would be very very happy."

Does that good feeling help, with the anniversary drawing near?

"Probably. It's hard anyways. The support helps," Steven Casey said. "[People] aren't forgetting, either."

With that in mind, the family looked at Saturday's event as a celebration or sorts. "That's what we're looking at it. it celebrates what she loved," Steven Casey said.

"She loved to run," Theresa Casey added.

In the months since the tragedy, Casey's family and friends here have worked to honor her legacy in ways large and small. A scholarship fund was established in her honor for graduating area high school students seeking a career in special education. A month ago, a painting in which a then 12-year-old Casey was a model was given to the family by Tilting at Windmills Gallery, through the efforts of generous donors.

On Saturday, the BBA cross country and boys' basketball teams got the course ready, and race organizers thanked the school and the Equinox Preservation Trust for their assistance.

"When you can turn something extremely tragic around and find some way to help or touch others, it helps in the grieving process," Kelly said. "And to be able to pass on money in their daughter's name to a worthy cause is important."

The Casey family, gathered at the starting line on Saturday, and Carey and Kelly talked about why they organized the run and what it meant to them.

"One really important thing I have seen and learned on this planet is this: Life is hard and when you take something really hard and you turn around and do something will help others, well that is what rising up is all about," said Kelly, fighting back tears. "That is what showing up is all about. That's what being in love is all about."

"Last night these three sisters came to the studio ... they came and made me a card and some flowers and a present for running this event," Kelly said. "Well, you guys are a gift to me. You guys as a group .. [are] showing up rising up and shining Sandy's light on all of us."

Carey in turn thanked Kelly and Klein for bringing the event to life.

"This is really showing how much love and support we have in the community. It's incredible," she said.

Sponsors included Zen Revolution, Bagel Works and YouBeYou, which sponsored the kids' fun run that preceded the main race.

Among participants who were timed, George Forbes, an assistant cross-country coach at BBA, was first across the line overall, in 21 minutes and 49.4 seconds. Chris Conte was second, in 23:59.1, and Sarah Harris was third overall and first among women in 25:13.8.

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at gsukiennik@manchesterjournal.com or at 802-490-6000.


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