Jazmine Eldridge and Tiffany Hoffman could go on for hours listing their favorite qualities of former lacrosse teammate Kellie Thompson Shiley, who died in July 2012 at age 31 of complications from giving birth to healthy twin girls.
On a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Thompson Shiley's friends reminisced about her playing days as an All-America attacker at St. Mary's High in the late 1990s and later at North Carolina. They continued to discuss her unwavering positive outlook, witty sense of humor and devotion as a mother.
But two of Thompson Shiley's traits in particular dominated the conversation.
“Kellie had an amazing way of bringing people together, making everybody feel comfortable,” said Eldridge, a teammate of Thompson Shiley's on the Tar Heels.
Added Hoffman, who played with Thompson Shiley at St.Mary's: “Kellie was probably the most competitive person anyone has ever met. She hated to be second in anything.”
Those two characteristics were the driving forces behind the formation of the Kellie Thompson Shiley 5K & Family Fun Run, set for Sept. 22 at the Cross Island Trail at Kent Island in Chester.
“It's perfect because it will be a way for us to come together and remember Kellie,” Eldridge said. “But with the 5K, it's also a competition. That's the way Kellie would have wanted it.”
The proceeds will go to the Kellie Thompson Shiley Family Trust, which benefits Thompson Shiley's husband, Ryan Shiley, and the couple's three children.
Shiley will bring twin girls Ryan Paige and Blake Lillian, who turn 1 this week, and 2-year-old son Landon to the event.
Children age 12 and under can participate for free, while the cost of the 5K or 1-mile family fun run is $30 for those over 12. Registration closes Sept. 20, but runners can sign up on race day for $35.
Former lacrosse players and coaches have been involved in promoting the run, and sponsors of the event include Major League Lacrosse's Chesapeake Bayhawks and Lacrosse Unlimited.
“Kellie was such a good lacrosse player, and people knew who she was because of what she did on and off the field,” Eldridge said. “The support that community has offered has been fantastic.”
Still, Eldridge and Hoffman believe the impact Thompson Shiley made as an athlete was dwarfed by her actions as a friend and family member. On Sept. 22, those two aspects of her life will be brought together.
“We'll have the family fun run for young kids and parents with strollers that Kellie would have enjoyed,” Hoffman said. “But we had to have the timed run to honor her, too.”
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