More than 200 people – including kids, members of local law enforcement and even a few dogs – gathered at the Kodiak Public Library on Saturday morning for the Run, Learn & Play 6k Run and 1 Mile Walk.
It was the first morning it wasn’t raining in more than a week. And just as slivers of blue sky opened up overhead, a wave of runners and walkers took off toward East Addition Park, just a few miles away.
Aimee Williams was the event’s organizer – she also helped coordinate the search for 7-year-old Sawyer Cipolla back in May, when he wandered away from his Kodiak home.
“The family wanted to do something to celebrate Sawyer, and Sawyer loved to run so this was the perfect event for that and you can hear there’s a lot of excitement,” said Williams.
Cipolla had autism. He was missing for more than a week before his body was discovered by people recreating on Pillar Mountain. According to the Alaska State Troopers, he died of hypothermia.
More than 2,500 members of the community helped search for Cipolla during the week he was missing – along with K9 teams from across the state, members of the Coast Guard and Navy SEALs. Local pilots also assisted in the search, which covered 10,000 acres across the island.
Williams says many of the participants at Saturday’s walk and run had been part of the search effort, too.
“We have great support from the Alaska State Troopers, which were integral in the search, so amazing to have them show up and spend time with us this morning,” said Williams.
A GoFundMe page was set up as part of the Saturday’s Run & Walk. Money raised will go towards programming at the Kodiak Public Library for kids with sensory disorders. Williams says the Cipolla family will work with the library on what that will ultimately look like.
As runners streamed across the finish on Saturday, she said she wasn’t surprised by the turnout.
“Kodiak is a really special place and that kind of community support is just amazing,” said Williams.
She says there’s already plans to make the Run, Learn & Play 6k Run and 1 Mile Walk an annual event.