Hundreds run and walk in memory of Middlebury girl

MIDDLEBURY — A road race held this past Sunday in Middlebury to honor the memory of a local six-year-old who died last month drew more than 500 participants and raised nearly $10,000 for charities.
“The turnout completely exceeded our expectations,” said Nicole Wilkerson, an organizer of the Kelly Claire 5K, 1 Mile Walk and Run.
Kelly Claire Olson died peacefully with her parents, Amy Roberts and Chris Olson, at her side on March 4 at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. The first-grader at Mary Hogan Elementary School was also survived by sisters Isabel and Fairley. As was apparent from attendance at the race, she had touched a remarkable number of people.
“Kelly had cerebral palsy and was physically handicapped but was otherwise as engaging and delightful as any other little girl could be,” Wilkerson explained on Sunday. “The outpouring of support and love from the town today was just amazing.”
Shortly after Kelly died last month, Wilkerson, Laura Turner and Kera Hurlburt began organizing the race, and they were joined by an ever expanding circle of friends and acquaintances. A core group came from the “Sole Sisters,” a 12-person running team of which Roberts is the captain.
All the proceeds from the race are being donated to three charities: Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, the local chapter of “Girls on the Run” and the MESA adaptive program at Mary Hogan Elementary. As of Monday afternoon, race directors had pulled in $9,620.
The atmosphere at Sunday morning’s race was light with balloons decorating the tents and warm-up area near Dragone Track at Middlebury College. Although there was a bit of a nip in the air, the sun shone brightly, lifting everybody’s spirits. The race sent a steady stream of runners and walkers — some pushing strollers — out South Street Extension and back to the parking lot next to the track.
“At our first organizational meeting, we were thinking it would be great if we could get 100 people on run day,” Wilkerson said. “So the turnout and support was tremendous, and really, just awesome!”

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