An 'Emmazing' day in Cape Breton

Laura Jean Grant, The Cape Breton Post
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Hundreds turn out for Emma van Nostrand Memorial Scholarship Run

SYDNEY — A passionate believer in the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle, Sunday was the kind of day Emma van Nostrand would have loved.

An army of runners and walkers laced up on a chilly, rainy spring day — and it was all in her honour as the second annual Emma van Nostrand Memorial Scholarship Run was held Sunday in Coxheath. The inaugural memorial run was held last spring just days after the 18-year-old van Nostrand collapsed and died as the result of an undiagnosed heart abnormality while running the Toronto Marathon.

Her parents, Steve and Katherine van Nostrand, said Sunday they were overwhelmed and thankful for the huge show of support. Early estimates pegged the number of participants at between 800 and 1,000 — many wearing T-shirts with a picture of Emma and the word "Emmazing."

"It's been an incredible source of support and obviously organizing the race has helped us with our healing process and become closer as a family and realize the support from the community," said Katherine. "It's been wonderful."

Monday is the one-year anniversary of their daughter's death, and Katherine said it's been an emotional year — from shock to sadness, to taking comfort in the support of the community.

"The year for us has certainly been a lot of ups and downs because we miss her terribly and it's hard to imagine the void that's with us, but we are a close family and it's helped us become even closer," she said. "We will never, ever get over losing Emma but we are learning to live in a different way, and the support of the community has just been amazing. Emma really taught us the meaning of the word amazing."

Running, active living, and healthy eating were an integral part of Emma's life, according to Katherine, and the van Nostrand family has stated all along that they want the run in her memory to help erase any concerns people have about running in light of what happened to Emma, stressing it was her condition, not running, that caused the tragedy.

The five-kilometre and 10-kilometre walk or run, which began at Riverview High School, also raises money for a scholarship fund in her name.

Sunday's event was an emotional one for Emma's friends as well.

"I was one of Emma's friends and I definitely want to be a part of (the run) because she meant a lot to me and she meant a lot to the school," said Sarah Cameron. "Emma was full of life and she was so nice. I just loved her and everyone loved her."

The run also served to reunite many of Emma's classmates, who graduated from Riverview Rural High School in June

"I'm just here to show my support," said Taylor Ranni. "She was a good friend of mine and it was definitely a big shocker last year but just being with everyone and having all your friends' support, it really helps to get through things. I'm not a runner myself but I just wanted to come here to show my support and it's great to be here."

Friend Ryan Nearing, who grew up with Emma, said she continues to make a difference.

"She inspired me to start running this time last year. Before the (memorial) run last year, I never ran before, so I feel like whenever I'm running she's with me, so I'm happy to be here today to see all our graduating class get together in her memory."

Organizations: Toronto Marathon, Riverview Rural High School

Geographic location: Cape Breton, Coxheath

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