The anniversary of a tragic event can be difficult to deal with but the family of Jody Marie Sanford has found a way to remember her with the help of the Wetumpka community.
The Paint the Park for Jody Foundation hosted another successful Color Fun Run on Saturday where 251 registered runners participated in the annual 5K. Participants of all ages made their way through the course at Gold Star Park in celebration of Sanford’s life as the foundation continued its fundraising to support the Jody Marie Sanford Memorial Scholarship Fund.
“It’s hard to put into words what this means,” foundation president Joey Hutto said. “We all know each other and it’s heartwarming to see them get involved and to see the thrill on their faces when the community shows up. We want to honor the legacy of Jody and this is something we can do to continue that.”
Sanford was a high school student and cross country runner at Weumpka who died Feb. 2, 2014. It was Super Bowl Sunday so every year since then, the foundation has held its color run the Saturday before the Super Bowl to remember Sanford.
“This is a good feeling to have this many people show up and support what we’re doing,” Jody’s father Jerry Sanford said. “This is really important. It keeps her memory going and we appreciate everyone that comes out to help these kids get scholarships. I think it’s great for the community.”
While Hutto said the foundation expected to see the popularity of the event slow down, this year was not the case as the event drew its second largest crowd ever. Runners from across the river region continue to show up and Hutto believes it shows the legacy of Sanford is staying alive.
“The run itself is definitely something everyone should get involved with,” Hutto said. “Not everyone wants to run but this is set up for be a family event. This is the only time of year we get to see some of these people. This is a great cause and it’s a great time for fellowship.”
The Color Fun Run is the only event the foundation hosts each year but everyone involved works much longer than one day to organize it. Hutto said planning usually begins in August and there are meetings for a few months before the run to ensure everything goes smoothly.
After the event is finished, Hutto said organizers usually take a small break for lunch to catch their breath but they get right back to work to check in on the money raised.
“We make sure to leave some money to pay for next year’s race but every other penny goes straight into the foundation,” Hutto said. “It takes a team to make this work. That’s why I don’t really like having a title because we have grown so much and everyone has helped with it.”
The proceeds go to the scholarship fund that benefits four county students each year. Two of scholarships are given to Wetumpka students, one to a male and one to a female, while the other two are awarded to students from other schools in the county.
“This year, our first recipients are graduating from college,” Jody’s mother Janice Sanford told the crowd after the run. “I know some of them are here and I know a lot of Jody’s friends are here from college. We appreciate it and love every one of you.”