My name is Joel Kelly and I am a Virginia Tech alumnus, Class of 1990. I am
going to ask you for a donation. I will put that out on the table before you get
too far into this letter. The cause, however, benefits those who lost something
far more precious than the few dollars I am asking from you.
Monday, April 16th, 2007 started off on a very surreal note. We were supposed
to be making our way well into spring, but an unseasonable cold snap ushered in
air from the north and brought us frigid winds and wet snow. I studied the
foreign, chunky, wet flakes that played across our front window, searching for a
place to land. Knowing that venturing out on the turnpike in such conditions for
my 55-mile commute to work would be frivolous; I staked a claim in my office at
home and proceeded to turn my mind to the reports that were demanding my
It began with an email from by brother-in-law from Pittsburgh: A gunman had
killed one person on Virginia Tech’s campus and several people were wounded. The
calls were next. Friends from work phoned asking if I had seen the news reports
on television. I explained I had some deadlines to meet and couldn’t devote my
full attention to reports starting to come out of Blacksburg. With each phone
call, the number of victims grew. With my work complete, I turned on the
television. Sadly, you know the rest.
The next several days were a barrage of surreal and heartbreaking imagery
courtesy of every news outlet that had descended upon the campus and university
that I love so dearly. Seeing the VT logo along side words like
“massacre” and “tragedy” tore at me, saddened me and left me
feeling helpless. My university was forever changed, linked to the innocent loss
of life, gone all too soon.
I went to church to find solace. I talked to family and friends in an attempt
to find reason in the unreasonable. In a final search for understanding and
comfort, I watched the Convocation, which was broadcast live all over the world
and held on campus at Cassell Coliseum, home of Virginia Tech’s basketball
teams. In an effort to calm troubled and torn souls, University President
Charles Steger, local religious dignitaries, representatives from support groups
and the President of the United States spoke to the families and friends of the
victims, to the student body, to alumni scattered all over the world and to the
thousands of people who suddenly found themselves to be “Hokies” (our
beloved school mascot) who were grieving and in search of that same comfort.
To close the Convocation, University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni
took the stage and single-handedly reached out and grabbed us from the clutches
of our deepest despair and lifted the Hokie Nation to heights I thought were
unattainable, one day removed from the worst mass shooting in the history of our
Days passed and things slowly started to return to normal. The blurred edges
of daily life, marred by shock and disbelief, slowly started to come back into
focus. However, I still harbored a sense of incompletion. There was a need of
closure — a need to reach out beyond the message boards and the telephone
conversations and do something.
I am a runner. The same brother-in-law that broke the unfortunate news of
April 16th also got me involved in my first half-marathon. We ran it last year
over Labor Day weekend in Virginia Beach, VA. I loved the experience. It wasn’t
simply the physical benefits I received, but the tremendous sense of
accomplishment I felt in finishing the race. It is also “mental yoga”
for me. I run alone and it allows my mind a chance to roam free of life’s daily
priorities. On one of my recent runs, my thoughts fixed on the compass heading
that would guide me in my quest to “do something”.
I am running the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half-Marathon again this year.
I am dedicating this run to the victims and their families in “The Run for
32”. This run is being sponsored by TechSideLine.com, the essential website
for Virginia Tech sports news. This website served as a virtual oasis for
thousands of Virginia Tech students and alumni, as well as students and alumni
from other colleges and universities across the nation, who needed camaraderie
as we searched for answers to our questions, shared information about the
tragedy, gave anyone who needed it a shoulder to cry on, posted tributes and
memorials to the victims and, in the end, provided a glimmer of light as we all
sought escape from the darkness that had enveloped us.
“The Run for 32” is in memory of those that are gone. This run is
for all those who can’t run, and the final benefit will be for the loved
ones this tragedy has left in its wake.
I am asking you for a contribution for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. I am
asking you for a dollar, or five, or ten … whatever you feel you can give for
the fund. I don’t want this to be a financial burden or a donation that you feel
that you have to give. I want this donation to be given freely, from the heart,
knowing that the contribution you give will go directly to the families’
victims, for grief counseling and therapy for those in need and for a memorial
that will be eventually erected on the Virginia Tech campus, forever honoring
them, the lives they led and the lives they touched.
While there are no suggested levels of donation, there are a few premium
levels you may want to consider:
- The Maroon Memorial Sponsor level: For $100.00, you can honor one
of the 32 by donating in memory of any student or professor (listed below).
- Hokie Pride/TechSideLine.com Race Team Sponsor: For $50.00, you can
support the race team (more below) by becoming a team sponsor.
- TechSideline.com “Run for 32” Half Marathon Race Team member:
For $25.00, you can join the TechSideline.com race team. By joining the team,
you are committing to finishing the run (or walk, if you prefer) and will be a
team member that physically shows your support by participating in the race. You
can register for the race by visiting the race website at www.rnrhalf.com.
Once you are registered, please email me your name and contact information at
therun[email protected]. In
order of registering, you will be assigned, alphabetically, to run in memoriam
of one of the 32 people that this race honors. Ideally, I am hoping for a race
team of at least 32 members. I encourage you to get involved and honor these
people and their families.
The run is on Sunday, September 2nd. If you plan to stay in Virginia Beach
overnight, please visit www.rnrhalf.com,
register for the race and book your room as early as possible. It is Labor Day
weekend, but there are special packages and rates for runners of the Half
Marathon. Upon completion of the race, the team will meet for a post-race
picture and hopefully a presentation of the check to a representative of the
Virginia Tech Foundation/Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. As a race team member, you
are not required to participate in fundraising efforts. However, it certainly is
not discouraged. I am coordinating a corporate match through my company and you
may want to investigate this option, as well.
To start the ball rolling, I want to donate the first $100.00 and run for a
group of people that, as a Virginia Tech alumnus, I couldn’t be more proud of:
the wounded and survivors of the Virginia Tech tragedy. As the bright lights of
the media were focused on them, they handled themselves with grace, dignity and
exemplified what it means to be a Hokie and a member of the university.
TO DONATE BY MAIL (PREFERRED): Please
mail your donation to (checks only please, made out to “Virginia Tech
Foundation/The Run for 32”):
The Run for 32
PO Box 321
Uwchland, PA 19480-9998
Please ensure you include the full title “Virginia Tech Foundation/The
Run for 32” on your check for your tax purposes, as these donations
are tax deductible.
TO DONATE ONLINE: Visit www.techsideline.com
and click on “The Run for 32” link on the home page. Or you may visit www.givingto.vt.edu
and make your donation via the Virginia Tech Foundation website. (Click
here for a direct link to make a donation via Tech’s web site.)
PLEASE NOTE: For all donations, please notify me with an email at [email protected].
This will allow me to track both your mail and electronic donations, especially
if you are doing so in memoriam. Please include your name (or your TSL.com
handle, or a directive stating you wish to remain anonymous), and the individual
you are remembering with your donation (if applicable). Race participants need
to provide their contact information and race T-shirt size, as well.
TechSideline.com will post periodic updates with a list of donors and donation
levels as the fundraiser progresses.
If you have made it to the end of this letter, thank you for your time.
Please consider sponsoring me and the TSL race team to help remember 32 special
people and the lives they touched.
Thank you and GO HOKIES!!!
“We are the Hokies! We will prevail, we will prevail, we will prevail!
We are Virginia Tech!”-Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni, April 17th,
The Run for 32 is dedicated to:
Ross Abdallah Alameddine
Christopher James Bishop
Brian Roy Bluhm
Ryan Christopher Clark
Austin Michelle Cloyd
Dr. Kevin P. Granata
Matthew Gregory Gwaltney
Caitlin Millar Hammaren
Jeremy Michael Herbstritt
Rachael Elizabeth Hill
Emily Jane Hilscher
Jarrett Lee Lane
Matthew Joseph La Porte
Henry J. Lee
Dr. Liviu Librescu
Dr. G. V. Loganathan
Partahi M. H. Lumbantoruan
Lauren Ashley McCain
Daniel Patrick O’Neil
Juan Ramon Ortiz-Ortiz
Minal Hiralal Panchal
Daniel Alejandro Perez
Erin Nicole Peterson
Michael Steven Pohle, Jr.
Julia Kathleen Pryde
Mary Karen Read
Reema Joseph Samaha
Waleed Mohamed Shaalan
Leslie Geraldine Sherman
Maxine Shelly Turner
Nicole Regina White
For their families and friends …
For Virginia Tech