The five-kilometre Sarah Beckett Memorial Run was full of emotion as friends, family, supporters and first responders headed out Saturday in honour of the fallen officer.
More than 500 participants, wearing matching grey memorial shirts, left from Belmont Secondary School in Langford at 10 a.m. Another 400 lent their support by taking part in a “virtual run.”
Beckett’s husband, Brad Aschenbrenner, and sons Lucas and Emmitt stood on a platform and blasted an air horn to signal the event’s start.
“This is a wonderful tribute,” Aschenbrenner said in an interview. “It’s fitting. It’s really emotional.”
The 32-year-old Beckett, a constable with West Shore RCMP, died when her police cruiser was struck by an impaired driver who ran a red light on April 5, 2016. Jake Fenton, whose blood-alcohol level was 3.5 times the legal limit, was sentenced to four years in prison.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said he was proud of the number of runners who showed up to support Beckett’s family and all first responders.
“We will be here every time to make sure we never forget,” Young said. “We are always there for you.”
Money raised by the event will be donated to the Const. Sarah Beckett Memorial Scholarship sponsored by the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission. The scholarship is awarded annually to a post-secondary student interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement.
Stephanie Oien shed tears as she listened to announcer Ed Bain tell Beckett’s story before the run.
“I remember three years ago when this happened,” Oien said, “and it hit home.”
Oien said she’s not a runner but felt compelled to support the fundraiser. Running beside officers in full uniform was inspirational, she said. “It was an emotional run, but a great run.”
Outer Gulf Islands RCMP Const. Joanne Harrisson, who used to work at the West Shore detachment, noted that firefighters, police officers, paramedics and volunteers took part alongside friends, family and community members.
Harrisson said it felt good to be part of an event about “moving forward and healing and keeping Sarah alive.”
Victoria police Const. Eric LeQuesne and fellow Victoria officers ran in full uniform and protective vests. “We all have families, we all have children and you think about being separated from your family and it is tough, it is emotional,” he said.
Sooke RCMP Const. Jason From played the bagpipes as runners approached the end of the course leading to an archway lined by first responders.
Runner Elaine Balkwill ran to honour Sarah and to show support for the family. “We’re grateful for what the police force does for us,” she said.
Amrit Gill said the scholarship is a good cause and a good way to show support for Sarah and her family: “We miss her.”
Young said the $1-million Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground, located next to City Centre Park Stadium, will have its grand opening on Aug. 24. The West Shore Rotary Club is working to raise $250,000 to buy playground equipment.
“It’s a fine tribute to all first responders and Sarah Beckett,” Young said. “When tragedy happens, the community has to be there.”