Innocence puts Gill run into perspective

Thanks to the example set by her two young sons, Tanya Gill can see the silver lining: good things do come out of bad situations. The concept wasn't new to her, but it took on a whole new light when voiced in the wise words of seven-year old Alexander.

As they got ready for the third annual John Gill Memorial Run, Alexander looked at his mother and asked, "If daddy didn't die, we wouldn't be doing this, would we?"

Tanya admits her breath caught in her throat, but she calmly answered that he was probably right.

"For better or worse, my children have had a very open and honest dialogue about death and its challenges, starting at a very young age," says Tanya, who's husband, the late John Gill, died three years ago while on a family vacation in Mexico.

Gill Memorial Run group
Students from General Stewart Elementary show support for their classmate, Alexander Gill, by participating in their own John Gill Memorial Run.

Alexander's matter-of-fact outlook on life is clear in the letter he wrote, asking his friends at school to get involved in the run.

Read during an assembly at General Stewart Elementary School, Alexander's letter stated: "My dad died when I was four. He was a good man who liked to help people a lot. Every year we run to help university students go to school. University costs a lot of money. I hope you will help me donate money to the John Gill Memorial Run for student scholarships."

"For him the whole thing is very simple," explains Tanya. "The event is fun and he understands it supports a good cause, so it just makes sense to him that other people should want to be involved."

While it may seem simplistic, Alexander must be on to something because the kids rallied behind him, demonstrating an incredible sense of community for such a young group.

Because the date of the run fell on a professional development day, the kids – all decked out in blue John Gill Memorial Run t-shirts – ran a day early and donated the proceeds to the award fund.

"There was so much positive energy that day. Even my youngest son Isaac, who's only three, shows incredible enthusiasm," says Tanya.

The school raised over $600, and Tanya notes that most of the money raised came in the form of loonies and toonies, demonstrating again that every little bit helps.

"Alexander had set a goal to raise $1,500 which was a little intimidating," admits Tanya.

In the end, the money raised at the school, together with donations from family and friends, helped raise $2,600 in support of the John Gill Memorial Award.

"Only $56 of that was mine," says Tanya proudly, gratefully acknowledging the many people, businesses and groups who made gifts in memory of John.

Tanya is pleased with the money raised and thankful for the support her family receives, but she can't forget the reason it's all happening.

"It's great to remember John while I teach our children about getting involved and giving back," says Tanya. "That's philanthropy and that's what John was all about."
The John Gill Memorial Award is given out annually and recognizes students who maintain high academic standards while demonstrating leadership within the community.

This article originally appeared in the Legend. For a look at the full issue of the November Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.