Good weather and a good cause meant that more than 100 participants were able to get outdoors for the third annual First Noelle 5K in Nokomis on Saturday, Dec. 5.
The event, which raised money for tuition scholarships to St. Louis Catholic School in Nokomis, as well as scholarships for the school’s annual March for Life trip, honors the life of Ayden Noelle O’Malley, who passed away in January 2018 from a brain hemorrhage while on the trip to Washington caused by an undetected AVM (arteriovenous malformation), which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain.
Like the previous two First Noelle events, the day was more about celebrating Ayden’s memory than mourning her loss. Members of her class, who will graduate in 2022, presented the family with flowers in Ayden’s favorite color, a teal/blue that has become synonymous with the young lady’s memory.
The event is held the first Saturday of December, Ayden’s birthday month, and whether they ran, walked or strolled, each of the participants received a thank you bag from Den and Roz O’Malley and family.
Those who chose to run were led by Kurt Hoehn, who stopped the clocks just 23 minutes after the start of the race. Randy Rieke would take second in the over-18 class, while Rosie McDonald was third. The youth winner was Kennedy DeWerff, with Elijah Aumann and Ian Keller taking second and third.
“A huge thanks to Melissa Engelman, Shandy Bertolino and Megan Mehochko for all your work in coordinating this special day. It means so much to the entire family,” Roz O’Malley said via Facebook. “A special thank you to... Diantha Harston for the many photos and videos. Ayden was blessed with so much love and friendship in all of you.”
For those who missed out on the race, but would still like to contribute to the cause, a second round of shirt orders will be made, with orders due Monday, Dec. 14. An order form for the shirts can be found on the First Noelle 5K Facebook page or you can call 217-823-1311 for more information.
In addition to the 5K, the O'Malley family has also raised funds for the scholarships by working one of the holes at the Arrowhead Open golf tournament that is organized by the Nokomis Athletic Club.
The Nokomis High School volleyball team has also conducted bake sales and held a penny war in their late friend and teammate's honor, raising more than $500 for the Nokomis Witt Area Ambulance Service’s Junior EMS Program in O'Malley's name.