“One step at a time” is how Brigid Collins and Jim Stewart plan to create a bereavement center for children on the East End. They took a giant leap in that direction in October, when they secured not-for-profit status for Katy’s Courage Fund, named for their daughter, who died of hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer. The third Annual Katy’s Courage 5K race, which celebrates Katy and furthers her family’s progress toward their goal, will take place in Sag Harbor on April 13.
Collins said on Tuesday that she hopes for good weather, and that people will register online in advance. Those who do will qualify to win an iPad, courtesy of GeekHampton, she said.
Last year’s race, with over 1,200 people registered and more than $30,000 raised, enabled the couple to open an account for the center with the proceeds, in addition to providing college scholarships for East End students and funds toward pediatric cancer research at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
There is a “definite need in the community” for a bereavement center, Collins said, something she found out firsthand after Katy’s death in December 2010. Her son, Robert, was just 6 years old when he lost his sister, and he really struggled, she said. A friend, a director at the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, suggested a visit, and it was a “transformative experience.”
Collins, the assistant principal at the Montauk School, explained that the teachers she works with supported her trip to Texas, where highly trained specialists work with children at their different developmental levels. It makes a big difference, she said. Parents learn how to help their children at the age they are at, and understand how they will think differently as they grow older.
The “atmosphere was remarkable,” she said. The couple hope to model their center on what they saw there. “I want other children to experience that.”
Her son, now a second grader at Sag Harbor Elementary School, has asked to go back there, she said. “We would like to continue, too,” she said. “It’s sad that we would have to travel to Texas.”
Most who attend the annual 5K would agree with Collins that “the feeling is what the race is about, to support her memory and the kind of kid Katy was.”
Attendees range from competitive runners to mothers with strollers and students, past and present, from Southampton to Montauk.
Last year’s race winner was Richard Temerian of Bridgehampton, a 53-year-old who ran the race in 17:32.16 seconds. The first female was 42-year-old Sinead FitzGibbon.
Stewart has been the only health teacher at East Hampton High School for 30 years, so just about every alumni of the school has passed through his class, Collins said, and many will walk or run the race. He has also coached the high school’s wrestling and boys soccer teams, and many of the athletes also support the cause.
Katy’s friends are a big part of the event too, dressed in pink, Katy’s favorite color, and with headbands and bows, which Katy wore frequently after losing her hair “to feel pretty,” her mother said.
“We see the love in the community during the event,” Collins said. “It is why Katy lived. . . . When everyone comes together . . . it embodies her spirit. . . . We will continue to celebrate that.”
Registration for the 8:30 a.m. event is $25 online at islandrunning.net. Those who register early that morning will have a chance to win a tech shirt. On race day, from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m., registration is $30. Information about the cause and links to the events that support it can be found at katyscourage.org.