Brandon Run Remembers Teen

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(Host)  This weekend may be Mother’s Day, but Brandon resident Nancy Leary wants to do something for her daughter  

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, her family and several hundred of her friends and neighbors plan to help.

(Keck) Nancy Leary’s eyes crinkle up as she shows me photographs of her teenage daughter Sarah laughing and clowning in front of the Louver and Eiffel Tower. 

(Leary) "That’s at Versailles – she’s just so funny, so silly."

(Keck) Leary says her daughter loved to travel and dreamed of being an astronaut. 

(Leary) "Sarah was very vivacious, very silly – but kind of tiger-like.  She liked to pounce on people.  She didn’t hold back her joy or her anger."  

(Keck) Two years ago, she says, her daughter worked several jobs to help pay for a high school trip to Spain.

(Leary) "She just felt it was real important to see the world.  It kind of opened her eyes up beyond Vermont."

(Keck) Last year, Leary says she joined both her daughters and one of her daughter’s friends on a 12-day tour of France, Switzerland and Italy.   The trip, says Leary, was magical.

(Leary) "I’ve never traveled, so our trip to Europe was the first time I had a passport and it was because she had made it look so easy when she went to Spain the year before.   It seemed effortless to go and so the door was open for me."

 (Keck) But it would be the last time Nancy Leary traveled with her oldest daughter.   On Mother’s Day, last year, the 16-year-old died in a car accident.

(Leary) "That morning – she had picked me lilacs, she had made the salad for our meal, and she had this hand made note hanging from the chandelier for me.   It was just a beautiful moment.  It was beautiful."

(Keck) Then Sarah drove her sister to the store to buy gum.  En route, she got distracted and lost control of the car. Her younger sister Jennifer escaped injury, but Sarah was thrown.  

(Leary) "It wasn’t anything that you think about that plans you for that – like the drugs and alcohol, that wasn’t a problem for Sarah, it was just – just a moment when she flew away."

(Keck) To celebrate Sarah’s life and memory, the family set up a scholarship to help students at nearby Otter Valley and Proctor High Schools pay for school trips. Leary says her running group suggested organizing a 5K race to raise even more money.  

(Leary) "So our hope is that we can give kids and opportunity to travel the way Sarah did."

(Keck)  Nearly 200 people have already signed up for the first ever Sunshine Run.  

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Brandon.

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