Running wasn’t necessarily Kelli Hutchison’s favorite thing, unless she was dribbling a basketball or shooting a soccer goal, but after her passing in 2010 when she was 10 years old, her faith community began a 5K race to raise money to build and sustain a playground in her honor.
“The playground stands as a beacon calling children to it!” said her mother, Melissa Hutchison. “And Kelli always hoped others would have God in their lives, so if it calls people to God Kelli would be especially thrilled.”
The race this year is on August 15 at the Windham High School track, starting at 9 a.m. This is the only fundraiser for the playground. This year the playground committee, chaired by Denise Dyer, is hoping to expand the playground by adding in extra swings. In the next two years, they hope to have the money to put in more structures to what has become a community playground, said Dyer.
“It’s important to the community, the family and the faith that that little girl had. It was just incredible. She was part of St. Ann’s. She found such comfort in St. Ann’s.
The committee hopes to raise $7,000, which is a lofty goal over the $4,500 they raised last year. Sponsors will be listed on the back of the race shirt, which will feature a ladybug, which has come to symbolize the playground and Kelli.
Kelli loved to draw. “In January she drew a picture of flowers, sun, clouds and she drew a ladybug on it with a dotted line all across the paper,” said Melissa. Kelly told her mom, “Mom, I’m a ladybug. Dad’s a grasshopper. You’re a butterfly and Cory’s a beetle.”
Kelli didn’t realize how that one statement would be entwined with her legacy. A ladybug is very lucky, but also signifies the Virgin Mary, Melissa added. The playground is often called the Ladybug Playground because of the two ladybugs that kids can play on.
One family calls it the “angel playground”, Melissa said. “The son always wants to say a prayer for Kelli before he leaves. All are welcome at the playground and at St. Ann’s,” said Melissa.
“This is something I can look forward to every year. It helps keep her alive,” she added.
The 5K is timed for the walk/run with prizes for winners. A tradition started years ago is that part of the first place prize is a plate of Betty Reez Whoopiez. So far, each year the winner donates them back to the committee and they are auctioned off. There will also be a 50/50 raffle. The cost is free for Windham students, $15 prior to August 15 and $20 on the day of the race. T-shirts can be purchased for $10 and $12 for larger sizes.
When asked how Kelli would feel about the 5K, Melissa answered, “She’d be excited. She’d be thrilled in a quiet way.”
Kelli loved chocolate, spaghetti, her friends, her brother (Cory), math, reading, her church... she loved life! Kelli would be a junior in high school this year.
“It’s a legacy,” said Dyer.
To register online for the race, visit www.kelli5K.com. For questions, email Dyerdenise50@gmail.com.