Thousands of walkers and runners showed up at Balboa Park on Saturday for the second annual "Finish Chelsea's Run," which was held to honor Poway High School student Chelsea King.
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"If there's something that you're so happy and excited about, you just almost want to jump out of your skin... that's how Chelsea was all the time," said her mother, Kelly King.
Chelsea loved to run and did so with a smile alongside her best friends. Jenna Belknap, one of Chelsea's closest friends and teammate, told 10News, "Our team was so close, so cross country just meant so much more than just the running."
Chelsea's last run was on Feb. 25, 2010 along a trail above Rancho Bernardo Community Park. John Albert Gardner III a convicted sex offender raped and killed her. Her body was found on the shore of Lake Hodges several days later at the end of an intensive search by law enforcement personnel and volunteers.
Gardner later admitted that he killed Chelsea and, more than a year earlier, 14-year-old Escondido High School freshman Amber DuBois. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"Everybody had to find a new sense of normal," Belknap said. "A lot of us who were in high school
this was our first time dealing with loss, so it was kind of a loss of innocence. We realized that the world isn't filled with all great people."
From Chelsea's family's darkest days comes their brightest hope. "Finish Chelsea's Run" gives students the promising future that was stolen from her by offering scholarships.
The annual 5K is the primary fundraiser for the Chelsea's Light Foundation's Sunflower Scholarship Fund, which rewards "college-bound teens who have embraced Chelsea's service-over-self ethic," according to the foundation's website.
"This is such an uplifting experience and such a healing experience for all of us, and thank you so much to the San Diego community," said Kelly King.
The King family is also backing State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in his race for San Diego mayor. Fletcher pushed to quickly pass Chelsea's Law, which now protects other children in the community.
"It's always a sobering reminder of what happened but there is a lot of good that came out of it, which is the community and the memory of a powerful young lady who is having a big impact on society," said Fletcher. "Last year's race is the first time we truly celebrated the life of Chelsea."
The organizers of "Finish Chelsea's Run 5K Run/Walk" said last year's inaugural 5K race attracted more than 5,400 participants. In addition to the 5K, there were activities this year that organizers describe as "Chelsea-esque" set up in the park. Informational booths on yoga and organic produce were set up, and younger children were kept busy painting sunflower pots. Sunflowers became a symbol for Chelsea when she disappeared in early 2010.
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