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Start of the race

Runners at the start of the 2017 Remembering Jesse Parker 5-mile and 5-kilometer runs.

A big change is coming for the Remembering Jesse Parker Races.

The 2019 races will be the last one with the Parker family’s involvement. There will also 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.

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.

“We knew at some point we would make that transition, and we were not sure when that would be,” she said. “But we’ve been working with the race committee, and we all agreed that year 10 is a good year to transition that.”

The race and charity will remain, but it will change, Parker said. She’s not 100 percent sure how they will change, but she has confidence in the leadership and the community to keep them going and supporting causes.

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.

“In my mind it’s the last opportunity for Jesse to be a big brother and guide them,” she said. “I think that will be fantastic. Jess is our oldest child, and when he was here we would teach the kids to look with Jesse’s eye, to see where the needs are, and as a parent what more can you ask for?”

The foundation will be privately funded and not seek out donations or conduct any fundraising, Parker said.

“There are a few people who might want to support a couple water projects, but there will be no events to fund raise,” she said. “We’ve got the means to fund that, and we want to put that to good use.”

The 2018 races will continue as normal on June 16 at Tomah High School.

The theme this year is “embrace the human race,” Parker said. What she loves about the event is how it connects the community and creates compassion for humanity.

“I love seeing the friendships that are formed and the talks that happen,” she said. “People who have had losses can share that with each other. That’s what makes Tomah so magical because there’s a real sense of community to each other.”

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 15 at 7 p.m. at Tomah High School.

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

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