|How we started…..The death of 17 year old Jesse Parker while on a family vacation on July 4th, 2009 was felt deeply in our small rural community of Tomah, WI. He was a bright, warm person who made others feel important. He dreamed of a life helping others, in Tomah and beyond.Following the loss of their friend, Jesse’s friends, coaches, and family members competed in a 5K race Jesse had planned to run when he returned from vacation.
Each ran this race wearing shirts with Jesse’s bright smile. A woman who did not know Jesse shared with his Mom later how powerful it was to see all these people at the starting line, with such heavy hearts, and Jesse’s smile gleaming back. This moving experience encouraged Jesse’s teammates and friends to ask for an annual run to honor Jesse. And from that seed of love for their fallen friend grew this event.
They approached their teachers and coaches and thankfully they supported this tender vision. Jesse’s cross country coaches, Becky Baures and Bruce Luebke, along with fellow high school teacher, Amy White, nurtured the creation of the Jesse race. Along the way many other kind and supportive community members joined the cause. Some who knew Jesse well and others who only knew of the dreams he had for others.
In July 2010 the first Jesse race was held at the Tomah High School. No one really knew how it might be received by the community. Fortunately, due to the efforts of many wonderful volunteers and generous sponsors the race exceeded anyone’s expectations. More than 500 runners and walkers celebrated a day of remembrance and community.
Since that start, the Jesse race has grown to be a community wide day of family fun, remembrance and helping our neighbors. The event now includes activities for seniors, special needs and proudly includes veterans from the Tomah VA.
Where we are….The hope of the original race committee was to provide funding for one scholarship each year and fund one clean water well. Due to the broad and kind support of many the Remembering Jesse Parker charity has funded clean water to over 90,000 people and has given scholarships to over 19 young adults who are working to make a difference. In addition, the charity supports many local charities that look out for the “underdog” and serve those in need.
Our hope is that Jesse is standing at the finish line cheering us on, and encouraging us to keep the pace, let’s not stop now. Just as in any race…. enduring for the distance is the key to success.
Thanks for choosing to support our charity. Together we can continue to make a difference and remember a sweet boy who left a legacy of love and compassion.