Kids Fun Run Honors Memory of Jyllian Pieper
Since 2004, an annual kids fun run has honored a child’s memory and brought a community together.
The Pieper family is organizing the 15th annual “Jyllibean Dash” in conjunction with the Loyal Corn Festival, the year their youngest daughter Jyllian would have been 15 years old. Jyllian passed away at 9 months after an undetermined medical condition.
Mom Viki Pieper describes her youngest daughter as someone who loved being on the go and attending cross-country meets. “We would push her across, and her little blonde tufts would be flying,” recalled Viki.
After Jyllian’s passing in January 2004, the family decided to start the fun run that same year in her memory alongside Cornfest since, although there was the adult’s Spanky’s Run, there was no run for children. After considering ways the money raised could benefit others, ultimately they decided that, as the run was a kid-centered event, sponsorship money would chiefly fund quality prizes that kids could cherish and get excited about.
“We just want kids to have fun and get out and exercise, and have a good experience,” said Viki.
The first year attracted just over 90 runners in age groups from 0-10. The highest attendance ever was 260. “It’s grown tremendously,” she said. “Our community here in Loyal is amazing because it’s all through donations, otherwise we’d never be able to afford to give prizes to all these kids.”
Last year, each runner received a basketball at the finish line. Other years, the prizes have been kickballs, memory games, and more. There is a drawing for a runner from each age group to win a bicycle.
With help from her large family, Viki organizes the event every year and stations herself at the start line, while her husband Dean waits at the finish. “It’s so dang cute,” she said of the runners. Although just a ½ mile, the kids take their participation seriously and prepare ahead of time. “Hopefully it gets them to learn to love to run, and to get out and not be afraid to participate.”
Parents often run alongside their kids wearing the event T-shirt. On the back of each is the number 4, Jyllian’s lucky number. She was born 4/04/03 at 4:04 in the morning and weighed 7 lbs 4 oz, passing away on 01/04/04. Viki remembers the 4th annual race as a memorable year, and everyone wore multi-colored shirts. During the 10th year, the last year Jyllian herself would have been eligible to run, the T-shirt design was a throwback to the first year.
Despite the many hours spent planning the short race, it’s a rewarding experience for Viki. “When you’re in the middle of December and a little Jyllibean T-shirt walks by, it’s pretty cool. She’s still fluttering around.”
Due to the continued success of the event and the excitement from the kids each year, Viki plans to continue organizing the race and will eventually pass the torch to Jordyn and Jaedyn, her eldest daughters. This year, Jordyn is collecting as many gently used shoes in children through adult sizes for an upcoming medical mission trip to Guatemala. Shoes can be dropped off at the start/registration line where runners pick up their drawstring bags.
Registration is $8 and covers the cost of the T-shirt for those who sign up by August 10: 2018 Brochure. The race is at 8:30 a.m. on August 25 just before Spanky’s Run. Same-day registration starts at 7:30 a.m at the Purple Park in Loyal.
“We said when Jyllie passed, we just want people to remember she was here,” said Viki. “She probably has more people who know her than anyone else in our family. I just love that she’s remembered. People ask about her, and I think that’s fantastic.”
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