By Zack Wilson, Staff Contributor
This past weekend, Halifax and Cornwall, Ontario played host to the first annual Heather Saaltink Memorial Runs. The charity events – in which dozens of Dalhousie students took part – were organized to raise funds for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
MADD is a nonprofit organization created by Candice Lightner in 1980 after an intoxicated driver killed her teenage daughter. Over the last 29 years, MADD has raised more than $100 million to improve public awareness and to offer support to families affected by impaired driving accidents.
Heather Saaltink, a fourth-year philosophy student at Lakehead College in Thunder Bay, Ontario was an avid runner herself. She was a member of the Lakehead cross country squad and participated in a number of individual races independently including a sprint triathlon and the 2008 Ottawa marathon.
Last Christmas, while returning with her father and sister from a day of holiday shopping in Ottawa, a drunk driver hit Saaltink, and she died as a result. The intoxicated driver in the other vehicle walked away with only minor injuries. The Saaltink family members were left without their daughter. Heather was only 22 at the time.
Nearly a year later, Saaltink’s family workout facility, The Cornwall Multisport Club decided to host a charity run. With permission from the Saaltink family, the club set up a memorial in Heather’s name, in hopes of raising funds and awareness for MADD. The facility organized a series of runs, including a kids’ two-km run/walk, and five- and 10-km runs.
Heather’s sister Emma, a fourth-year Dal Kinesiology student and competitive runner herself, flew home to Cornwall to participate in the fundraiser.
Emma’s roommate, Beth Mulvale, also a runner, decided to set up a Halifax leg of the run in hopes of raising money for the cause on the same day as the Cornwall fundraiser. Mulvale and other Dalhousie volunteers organized a five-km run/walk through Point Pleasant Park, ending with a chili dinner for all participants, and prizes awarded to winners.
Despite some light rain, the Halifax leg of the fundraiser went wonderfully.
“It’s important that students get involved in events such as this so that we can give back to not just the community, but to families such as the Saaltinks,” Matthew Mactavish, a fourth-year Biology student who competed, said. “I had a great time today and I think all young people should get involved in events such as this.”
Alisa Miller, the women’s winner, walked home with a brand-spanking-new pineapple for her efforts. The Halifax run raised several hundred dollars, all of which will be donated directly to MADD Canada.