10 years ago, Andrea Conroy, an Airdrie mom and good friend was murdered by her boyfriend. Her tragic death shocked the community, but it also brought the topic of family violence to the forefront of conversations. In her honour, Airdrie’s community would start the Legacy Run to End Family Violence.
Rebecca Nielsen, who is a member of the planning committee first met Conroy at pre-natal classes that both women were taking.
“She was very friendly and athletic. When you met her, she had a really big love of volleyball. And that was really an important part of her identity,” Nielsen said. “I have lots of good memories of her. Probably my favourite memory of her was when we were just doing the little things like out in the park with the kids and enjoying some sunshine.”
When Nielsen learnt of her friend’s death at the hands of Conroy’s partner it was life-altering.
“Andrea was someone who kept her cards very close to her vest. I think that this impacted us so deeply because it became really obvious that domestic violence or partner violence or family violence can happen to anyone,” she said. “It's not limited to any particular segment of society. Your neighbour or your friend could be suffering from domestic or family violence situation and you won't know it.”
At that time, the Airdrie Rotary Club was involved in organizing an annual race that helped support organizations that worked with the victims of family violence.
“It seemed like a natural connection and when something like this happens, and you experience this kind of tragedy in your life, you always try and reach out for meaning and to try and do something that feels like you're making an effort to make things better.”
Nielsen wrote a letter to the Rotary Club asking them if they would be interested in naming the race after Andrea Conroy. She would later become part of the committee that would organize the race. Since then, the Rotary Club discontinued the race, however, with the initiative of Community Links and other organizations, Andrea’s legacy continues and after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Legacy run has returned and will be held on May 15, 2022, at Airdrie’s Ed Eggerer Athletic Park.
“It’s almost like relearning the event. This is our fifth year hosting the event, but it feels like we're going almost somewhat back to year one, just trying to remember how we did things and what worked well,” said Laurie Jacob-Toews, the Community Engagement Services Manager at Community Links.
With the event less than a month away, Community Links is in search of volunteers. Currently, less than 20 per cent of volunteer positions have been filled.
“For us, safety is extremely important. Where we really need support is at those road crossings. We always like to have our volunteers there with bright vests on,” she said. “We're really hoping we get some more people to sign up for those areas, specifically.”
However, there are also other volunteering positions including assisting with the set-up of tents and tables, operating water stations, and handing out medals to name a few.
Community Links hopes to host 250 runners and walkers for this fundraiser. Race proceeds are donated to Community Links, a non-profit agency offering free front-line programs and services for people living in Airdrie and surrounding communities who are impacted by this serious, pervasive public health issue.
When Nielsen was asked if Conroy would have participated in such an event if she were alive today, Nielsen said she absolutely would.
“She would be there cheering on the people that she was working within the fitness community, trying to improve their health and fitness and she'd be running alongside.”
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