Hundreds Run In Memory Of Kelli O’Laughlin
Foundation raises scholarship money; McCook police win pop top challenge
By Kristin Salgado
Hundreds of runners spread joy as they took part Oct. 1 in the Run for Kelli race to benefit the Kelli Joy O’Laughlin Foundation.
The foundation, which has given away over $359,000 in scholarships since its inception, hosted its annual run in memory of Kelli O’Laughlin, the 14-year-old Indian Head Park girl who was tragically killed in 2011.
The event was held at the South campus of Lyons Township High School in Western Springs. Participants could compete in a 5K race, a one-mile walk, or a 50-yard dash for the younger crowd.
Kelli’s father, John O’Laughlin said there were over 700 participants this year, as well as many raffle prizes, which also raised money for the foundation.
Kelli’s mom, Brenda O’Laughlin, said that Kelli touched the lives of everyone she came in contact with, and by holding these events in her name, she can live on and continue to touch lives.
Scott Cummings, of Hobart, Ind., never met Kelli, but six years ago, when he heard her story and met her family, he was so touched that he started to run in her name. The race on Sunday marked his 111th run for Kelli. He said that when he crosses the finish line of each race, he can feel Kelli crossing it with him.
Medals and trophies were awarded to the top finishers in each age bracket, and U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski and his wife Judy placed in their respective categories.
Aside from the race and the raffle, there was also a pop top challenge to see which local police department could gather the most pop top tabs in Kelli’s name for the Ronald McDonald House at Loyola University Hospital in Maywood.
The challenge was the idea of 7-year-old Gianna Tomasewski, who has collected more than 2 million of the pop tops.
Police in Hodgkins, Countryside and McCook competed, and McCook ended up collecting the most with 308 pounds of pop tops.
A late donation pushed Hodgkins to 201 pounds and Countryside, which had boasted it would win, came in third with 198 pounds.
Gia’s mom, Ashley Tomasewski, said the challenge was well received.
“Next year, we’re going to try and get more police departments involved,” she said.
McCook Police Chief Mario DePasquale was very happy with the turn out.
“I can’t say enough about Gia,” he said. “The way she got the police involved was absolutely fabulous.”
“One of my officers dropped off containers at businesses in town and the people rallied behind us,” he said. “We got a lot of support from our residents.”
He said the Kelli Joy Cup trophy will be going on display at the village police station.
“If the police from Countryside or Hodgkins want they can come over and look at it any time,” he said jokingly.
He said the friendly rivalry with his neighboring police departments helping inspire the great turn out.
“It went to a good cause,” he said. “But it’s always good to be victorious.”
Ashley Tomasewski said any police departments that want to take part in the challenge next year should contact her via Facebook.
For more information on the foundation, visit kellijoyolaughlinmemorialfund.com.
Bob Bong contributed to this report