Hailey Rath Event Celebrates Eighth Year
The annual Hailey Rath 5K Fun Run/Walk in Beloit, Wis. has raised a total of more than $100,000 for organ donation awareness and youth scholarships. But for Jeff Rath, the money is not nearly as important as the event's message: Organ, tissue and eye donors can save dozens of lives.
Jeff and his wife Lisa hosted the eighth annual event on August 17, 2014, which was created in honor of their 13-year-old daughter Hailey, who died following a car accident in 2005. Jeff and Lisa made the decision to donate Hailey's organs and tissue, which ultimately changed the lives of 75 people.
In 2007, Jeff's 30th high school class reunion committee decided to host the walk/run to promote organ donation awareness. The following year, they expanded the event to include a day full of bands and food, and in 2013 they added a volleyball tournament. "Knowing that Hailey's legacy is still alive and in the forefront of everyone's minds is just cool," says Jeff.
At this year's event, held at The Rock Bar and Grill, more than 200 people participated in the run/walk, and between 2,000 and 3,000 people showed up throughout the day to listen to music. The event raised $24,000, which the committee gave to UW Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) for organ donor awareness, and to the Hailey Rath Memorial scholarship fund, which sends young people on mission trips and to church camps.
Every year, Jeff and other committee members encourage participants to register as organ donors. One year, they registered 30 new organ donors. "We are gratified to know that our community is behind organ donation," says Jeff. "If Hailey can change 75 lives, imagine what 1,000 people can do."