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Runners pass mile-marker signs with the names of children killed in the Newtown, Conn. school shootings. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)

Miles to remember

Runners support Newtown victims in Gilford running event

GILFORD - It looked like a marathon was being run through town on Sunday, as 1,400 runners were guided along a route marked by signs, police officers, and volunteers wearing safety vests.

This wasn't a race, though. Each of the white signs marking each mile of the course had the name of one of the 26 victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., four months ago, on Dec. 14, 2012.

The runners were mostly teachers, support staff and students from 78 schools in New Hampshire and the region. They came to show support and raise money for the families of the victims, as each was asked to donate one dollar for each mile they raced, and each was asked to run 26 miles.

Event organizers said the event raised $22,000, which will go to the 26.4.26 Foundation, which provides funding for the families of victims, memorials for teacher heroes and is dedicated to increasing safety in schools across the country through school programs that promote positive social interaction among youth.

But many runners came for personal reasons.

"Because we can't be there for them (in Newtown)," said Holly Harris, the school resource police officer for the Gilford School District. "A lot of us felt like we had to do something."

For educators, it was "a real community event," said Pam Murphy, a teacher from the Barrington School District, who came with fellow Barrington teachers Cathy Nield and Lisa Stevens as volunteers.

"It affected all of us terribly when it happened," Murphy said.

It was a release for Rich Bergskaug, a special education teacher at Souhegan High School in Amherst.

"We wanted to do something for those people," he said. "It's a small price to pay compared to what they've been through."

At the finish line in Gilford Village, a large American flag hung high from a crane, and runners were greeted by loud cheers from their peers when they arrived.

The event was a great success, said Harris, who was an organizer.

"It all came together wonderfully," she said.

The tragedy was still fresh on many minds, though.

"I care for my kids, and when I say my kids, I mean the students (in Gilford schools)," Harris said. "I can't imagine that happening to my kids."


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