Annual charity run reaches finish line

Broadcast instructor exceeds $50, 000 fundraising goal in memory of late husband

Flight Run participants celebrate completing the course.

Flight Run participants celebrate completing the course. Courtesy of Angie Theillman

On a crisp, clear November afternoon, the tenth and final High Flight Run took place, leaving organizer Mary Kay Thurston feels a definite sense of fulfillment.

Thurston, a broadcast journalism instructor at BCIT, started the run 10 years ago, in honour of her late husband, helicopter pilot Mike Thurston. He died in 2001 at 38 years old after the helicopter he was operating experienced a mechanical failure.

For the past 10 years, through pledges collected by students and colleagues, Thurston has been organizing this fundraising event to raise money for the Michael Thurston Memorial Fund, a permanent endowment.

Having now exceeded the $50,000 goal she set out to achieve, Thurston feels it is time to retire the run knowing that a legacy of her late husband’s honour has been established.

“When I set the scholarship in motion 10 years ago, I could never have imagined what a positive influence it would have on my life and on the lives of my students,” Thurston told The Link. “I believe that teaching is a great privilege and that my loss, though unfortunate, has given me the opportunity to inspire my students in a way I never thought possible.”

Second-year broadcast journalism students who have come to the program from outside the Lower Mainland can apply for the award annually. To date, more than 20 students have received sizable scholarships.

Considering students’ geography when awarding the scholarships honours the fact that Mike grew up in small town Jasper. He understood the sacrifices that come with moving away from home to pursue one’s dream.

And so, as broadcast journalism students have done for the past 10 years, a healthy group of first- and second-years, led by their spry instructor and organizer, completed the four-kilometer circuit.

[pullquote]“She does so much for this program so it was great to see everyone support her late husband’s charity.”[/pullquote]The group ran from the broadcast building, through Deer Lake Park, and wound through tall grasses and marshland, a fitting tribute to a man who in Mary Kay’s words “was happiest in nature, with a fishing rod in his hand and the wind in his hair.”

The run ended at Professor Mugs pub to celebrate with a few pints, laughter, and some sincere sentiments.

“This is my second year doing the High Flight Run. It was great to see lots of people out to support Mary Kay,” said second-year student Scott Austin. “She does so much for this program so it was great to see everyone support her late husband’s charity.”

Thurston graciously thanked the crowd for their participation and their support.

“This being the last year this run will take place, I’m so happy with the turn out and this year’s contributions to the fund,” Thurston told participants. “If Mike was here today to see this, he’d be so happy and so proud.”

And with the final run taking place under clear skies, just as it in its first year, one had to wonder if someone up there pulled a few strings.[hr]

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