Memories of Summer by Grace Gallagher, Executive Director

I started out my writing wanting to share with you some great summer tunes that either pick me up when I am feeling down, or tunes that bring a soft smile of a memory, or songs that make me want to kick off my flip flops and dance like a little girl, feeling the grass between my toes. But something was tugging at my heart.

My happiest memories of summer are David and I sitting back in chairs sitting on a hill looking at the most amazing sunset over the Potomac River. Andrew, our oldest, smiling as he put away his wakeboard after hitting some “epic” jumps over the wake. Cameron smiling because she just Instagrammed the coolest picture of the sunset with no filter necessary, and her caption was equally as cool. Reilly smiling because we haven’t found out yet what ridiculously high tree she just swung or jumped from and landed into the river without breaking any bones. Sydney smiling because she found some honeysuckles that haven’t dried out yet from the summer heat. Mitchell smiling because we don’t realize he has been wearing the same bathing suit for 3 days and no bath. Isn’t summer awesome?!!

But what tugs at my heart is that I need to be honest with you. It makes my heart smile and break at the same time because I want that summer back. One of those smiles is missing. But is it? Is it right there in front of me? One thing I know for certain where all of us can find Cameron’s smile is at Byrd Park on September 9th. Her vision, her dream, to bring an entire community together so that no one ever feels alone in whatever their struggle may be. The SpeakUp5k entirely created by a 16 year old girl who struggled with depression and anxiety, but also had a heart so full of passion to let all people know they are not defined by their struggle, they are not alone, and there is hope. Cameron planned this 5k and and we are following her marching orders she left for us, for you. This is not just a 5k, this is an experience. Come out on September 9th and meet Cameron, and if you already knew her, come see her, come hear her voice. Run, walk, stroll, dance your way through beautiful Byrd Park. Silly string, water, bubbles, and a “rave” tent will meet you along the way. And of course the impactful quote alley where Cameron’s presence is quite strong.

I promise you that when you cross the finish line on September 9th you will be smiling. You will carry a gift with you throughout your life, and that gift will be the gift of inspiration and hope.

Katherine Cook