Over 900 runners, 200 volunteers and tons of spectators turned out for the
first annual Greta’s 5k Walk/Run on Sept. 15 in Westfield.
Greta Schoenemann, remembered by friends for her kindness and humor, was only one week into her freshman year when a tree limb fell on her and nine friends as they ate lunch outside Westfield High School on September 11, 2002. Schoenemann sustained grave injuries and died four days later.
The run, organized by Ben Nanna and Jayne Ruotolo in partnership with the Westfield Y, marked the 11th anniversary of Schoenemann's passing. Nanna and Ruotolo were childhood friends of Schoenemann.
Nanna said the run was an incredible success, as was the entire process, thanks to the dedication by volunteers and the community support.
“I knew Greta’s Run would be successful because of the cause,
because of Greta and because Jayne and I were driving it with passion, with support,”
Nanna said. “I didn’t know, or could’ve anticipated, how amazing and cathartic
it would actually feel once it happened.”
The funds raised by Greta’s Run will benefit the Westfield Area YMCA’s special needs program, which was close to Greta’s heart as her sister has Cerebral Palsy.
The amount of money is crucial to the improvement of programs at the Y for those with special needs, Nanna explained. The Y is still counting the funds raised.
“The Schoenemann’s and I have so many ideas for the programs, and look forward to implementing them in the coming months,” Nanna said.
Throughout the summer, organizers, volunteers and the Schoenemann family planned and recruited people for the run, which was driven by so much community involvement, Nanna said.
Schoemann’s sister told Nanna that due to this run, it was the first time she in 11 years she looked forward to Sept. 15.
“People are amazing,” Nanna said. The amount of people that showed up to run, volunteer and cheer is exciting because the community is behind it. Greta and the town she lived in are the soul of Greta’s Run and its success.”
Many people from Greta’s class turned out for the run from all over the country and her brother came from Germany to be a part of the event. Nanna said the amount of families that came together for this event showed the big picture of Greta’s Run, which is to bring people together.
Greta’s Run will become an annual event in Westfield. Nanna said he cannot wait to do it again next year.
Local Editor Elizabeth Alterman contributed to this report.