By Stephen J. Kotz
Runners of all ages and abilities will converge on West Water Street in Sag Harbor this Saturday for the fourth annual Katy’s Courage 5-K run.
The event will raise money for scholarships, pediatric cancer research, and, perhaps most importantly this year, a new bereavement program for children the organization has recently founded in conjunction with the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton.
“We hope a lot of people will come out,” said Katy’s mother, Brigid Collins Stewart. “It’s early in the morning, it’s a beautiful course, and it’s the kind of race that draws everyone from elite runners to mothers with baby carriages.”
The entry fee, if paid in advance, is $25. The fee on the day of the race is $30. Check-in starts along the waterfront on West Water Street at 7 a.m. and runs through 8:15 a.m. The race starts at 8:30 a.m.
Prizes will be given for the top three male finishers, the top three female finishers and the top three males and top three females in nine different age categories, ranging from 14 and under to 80 and older.
Despite enduring the heartbreak of losing her daughter more than three years ago, Ms. Stewart said events like the 5-k run, an annual student classical concert, and a skate-athon at the Buckskill Winter Club in East Hampton help ease the pain and remind her of her daughter’s impact on others.
“She still inspires people. There are people I don’t even know who still call me to tell me what a great inspiration she was,” said Ms. Stewart. “We were very proud of her—and we still are. She went through a lot as a child and even though she did get a bum deal she handled it well.”
Ms. Stewart said she expects anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 runners to take part in this year’s run, and she was keeping a somewhat nervous eye on the weather report, which calls for a chance of rain and temperatures in the low 50s, for the weekend.
If proceeds keep pace with last year, Katy’s Courage will raise about $30,000 from the run, making it the charity’s biggest money maker.
“We’re excited because this is the first year we have fulfilled our third goal, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE,” Ms. Stewart said.
Although still in the development stage, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE will offer bereavement programs for children, including private and group therapy with mental health professionals with a special focus on play therapy. Ms. Stewart said the goal is to have pilot programs operating by the fall.
The Stewarts became convinced of the value of play therapy in helping children cope with the loss of a loved one from firsthand experience. Their son, Robert, was only 6 and staying with his grandparents when Katy died.
“Robert was upset and told us, ‘I never got a chance to say goodbye,” recalled Ms. Stewart.
She said she and her husband first tried to talk about Robert’s grief with their son, but learned that children grieve in their own way and need time and the right situation to open up. A friend recommended the family visit the Children’s Bereavement Center in San Antonio, Texas, where they saw Robert make great strides in his own healing journey through play therapy.
“We believe so much in play therapy, and there is really not much available out here,” Ms. Stewart said.
Proceeds from Saturday’s run will also help underwrite a $10,000 scholarship that Katy’s Courage awards each year to a Pierson High School senior. The stipend is paid out over four years and presented to a student who leads through example characterized y by kindness, goodness, respect and empathy toward others.
The third beneficiary of the run is the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, which the Stewarts began with a $25,000 donation in 2012.
Ms. Stewart said the run would never be the success it has become without its many sponsors and other community volunteers. “We are grateful to all our sponsors,” she said. “Everyone gives what they can.”
She said that Ben Krupinski is a major sponsor, through his 1770 House and Citta Nuova restaurants as well as his building company. Other major sponsors include Wainscott Sand and Gravel, Mickey’s Carting, Suburban Sanitation, Riverhead Building Supply, the Bagel Buoy, Sag Harbor Beverage, and Starbucks Coffee.
Boy scouts run the water stations and still other students run the Katy Bug Lane Boutique, which sells baked goods, hair accessories, bracelets and other small items, and the Sag Harbor Fire Department helps set up and take down the event. Nina Landi is the race director and Bruce and Kelly McMahon also provide invaluable help.
“It takes a village,” said Ms. Stewart. “Everyone goes out of their way to help.”