Running is a great way for kids with a lot of energy to get outside and get the jitters out. Sophia DeMille, a nine-year-old Girl Scout, is one of those kids. Sophia ran alongside 70 of her Girl Scout friends and family members this year at Finish Chelsea’s Run in honor of Chelsea King. Sophia plans to participate again next year and said her troop’s goal is to get 100 people to participate with their team in 2016.

“Running alongside my fellow Girl Scouts made me feel more comfortable than finishing the race with family alone,” Sophia said. “Friends make it more fun because friends are just like family. We’re basically just finishing her run.”

Finish Chelsea’s Run is a perfect example of turning a tragic situation into an opportunity for community building and change making. Following the 2010 disappearance of Poway teenager Chelsea King, Chelsea’s Light Foundation has grown to be a positive resource for protecting the innocence of childhood and inspiring children to have their voices heard. The race grew from a grassroots effort by San Diego runners into a major annual event in San Diego. Next year’s race will be held on March 5, 2016.

Chelsea’s Light partners with Girl Scouts San Diego for Finish Chelsea’s Run
Chelsea’s Light partners with Girl Scouts San Diego for Finish Chelsea’s Run

Empowering Kids to Be Leaders

The Chelsea’s Light Foundation has partnered with Girl Scouts San Diego to join forces in empowering young people to become leaders in their community.

Cristina De Almeida Amaral is one of those Girl Scouts who embodies Chelsea’s spirit. The seventeen-year-old senior at High Tech High Chula Vista has been with the same Girl Scout troop since kindergarten. Last year Cristina got involved with Finish Chelsea’s Run after hearing Chelsea’s story and being inspired by the way she lived her life.

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It’s not too early to register for Finish Chelsea’s Run on March 5, 2016. To sign up for the run that brings San Diegans together and help Chelsea’s Light Foundation reach their goal of 10,000 participants, click here:

“She wasn’t afraid to break boundaries and do whatever her heart called her to do,” Cristina said. “She seemed so vivacious and friendly and a ball of light. She didn’t take opportunities for granted and ran with everything.”

Cristina said she especially identifies with Chelsea because of the love and passion she had for Girl Scouts. Cristina said she plans to sign up as a student ambassador to gather a team of people to participate in next year’s Finish Chelsea’s Run.

Kristie Grover, Executive Director for Chelsea’s Light Foundation, said it’s kids like Cristina and Sophia that move the nonprofit to keep supporting students throughout San Diego County. That’s why the foundation is growing their student ambassador program into The Changemaker League, a leadership program for K-12 kids that teaches the skills needed to change the world based on their passion.  This innovative curriculum will help inspire students to be community focused trailblazers with the ability to solve social issues with creativity

Proceeds from the run power the foundation’s Sunflower Scholarship Fund which offers scholarships to young Changemakers throughout the county. To date, the fund has awarded more than $336,000 to San Diego teens who exemplify the values Chelsea held close. She was extremely diligent, involved in a variety of school activities, had a passion for volunteering in her community, believed in the power of change and dreamed of making the world a better place. Kristie said giving kids the tools they need to make a difference in their community is the way they have kept Chelsea’s legacy alive.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman show their support for Chelsea’s Light Foundation
Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman show their support for Chelsea’s Light Foundation

Bringing the Community Together

Finish Chelsea’s Run is a family-oriented event, with 58 percent of attendees participating with their families.

Kristie said the trickle-down effects of the race and the foundation’s work with children has brought the community together.

“If you’re going to make a difference, the collaborative voice of many is much stronger than a singular voice,” Kristie said. “When this happened six years ago, San Diego stood up and said ‘let’s not allow this to happen in our backyard again.’ Finish Chelsea’s Run is a way to honor Chelsea King and our ability to collectively make a difference. Those who come out each year to participate feel the positive energy that radiates from over 8,000 Changemakers celebrating light over darkness. At this event, you truly witness the power of an engaged community.”

From passing Chelsea’s Law to inspiring followers on their Facebook page, Chelsea’s Light Foundation has positively impacted California. Finish Chelsea’s Run even supports other nonprofits and programs in San Diego.

At next year’s race, the foundation is partnering with We Care Bears to ask race participants to donate stuffed animals to first responders and care givers so they may hand out to injured children who are in unbearable situations. In honor of Chelsea’s commitment to healthy eating, the event will also highlight many regional farmers and sustainable eating.

Kristie said it’s all a testament to Chelsea King and what she stood for.

“One of the things about Chelsea was her perseverance,” Kristie said. “The whole reason she became a runner is because she did not make the volleyball team. She believed when you have roadblocks and things that happen you have to find the positive, you have to find the hope in any situation.”

SDG&E’s grant has helped Chelsea’s Light support the next generation of leaders through our Chelsea’s Light Peer Corps program. Their support and commitment has allowed us to create trust and bonding between peers, where self-worth and strength of character are supported, where students embrace and teach acceptance and diversity, and where they are given permission and support to truly step into their full potential as role models and changemakers. Ultimately, inspiring positive change in our community.

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