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Cousins finish together in 2018

Jake Parker and his cousin Ryan Herken of La Farge completed their run together at the 2018 Remembering Jesse Parker Race. Jake is the younger brother of Jesse Parker.

The 2019 Remembering Jesse Parker Races will be the last ones.

This year will mark the end of the Parker family’s involvement in the race and charity, and there will be a name change.

It will mark the 10-year anniversary of the race, which began in 2009 after 17-year-old Jesse Parker died in an automobile accident during the Fourth of July weekend in 2008.

Scott Nicol of the Remembering Jesse Parker Race Committee, said the decision was made a couple of years ago by the Parker family and the board.

Seven of the nine committee members will be phasing out, and Nicol and his wife Dorothy are going to work with the city and school to have a similar event as a community charity.

“We think it’s such a good family day, and the charity does so much good in our community that we don’t want it to stop,” he said. “So Dorothy and I are going to try and keep it going ... it will be the same event and same charity, just renamed.”

In a previous Tomah Journal article, Jenny Parker, Jesse’s mother, said the family has always thought about transitioning the event into a community race.

Parker said it was her and husband Brad’s vision that the race would be inclusive to not just those who knew Jesse but to everyone who’s experienced loss and heartache to allow conversations about grief and accept the feelings of being broken and vulnerable.

While the family will no longer be involved with the races and charity, the Parkers will open a family foundation called the Jesse Parker Imagine Fund.

Parker said the foundation will be run by her two remaining children, Bria and Jake Parker, and will support causes that were dearest to Jesse.

The end of the race and charity is a mix of emotions, Parker said.

“It’s a meaningful thing to have even a handful of friends to walk with you and share a beautiful word and to care about you and it means a lot to have a community do that for you,” she said. “Most of it’s gratitude, but also we feel like it’s the right time to transition … We still miss our son greatly, but we’re also grateful for the things people have done to remember him and move a bit of his spirit forward.”

Parker said the family is appreciative of the people who allowed them to be vulnerable and for others to share their experiences. That is what a community should be, supportive of each other.

“We’re grateful that the race has done that for people,” she said.

Registration and packet pickup will begin at 6:30 a.m. and end at 7:30 a.m. The 5K run/walk, 5 mile run, 1K Senior Stroll and 1K Special Needs Stampede begin at 8 a.m., and the free 100-yard Angel Run for children four years old and younger and the quarter-mile and half-mile Lil Firecracker Runs will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Wings of Love, a lantern release event, will be held Friday, June 14 at 7 p.m. at Tomah High School.

A pancake breakfast served by the Tomah Lions Club and the Tomah Lioness Club is also available after the first race ends in the high school.

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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