When Kelli Hutchison of Windham played soccer, she was always more focused on her classmates than the game.

“If someone did something new, like scored their first goal, she would run up and hug them and congratulate them,” Mike Hutchison said of his daughter, who died in February 2010 at age 10 from glioblastomas multi-form (GBM) brain cancer. “She had so much enthusiasm about play, a little girl’s enthusiasm.”

Kelli’s 5K memorial race, to be held this year on Saturday, Aug. 13, is bolstered by the same spirit.

“(Kelli) would just be thrilled with the results of the race – people having a good time,” Hutchison said.

GBM brain cancer is rare among children, Hutchison said.

Kelli’s race, now in its seventh year, raises money for upkeep at her Memorial Playground at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church. Kelli was a devoted member of the church, where her father, mother Melissa Hutchison and brother Cory Hutchison are active in the congregation. The church is at the intersection of Windham Center Road and River Road.

The race is organized by Kelli’s parents and the Kelli Hutchinson Memorial Playground Committee.

This fall, she would have been a senior at Windham High School. The organizers hope the race will be “a big success because it would have been Kelli’s graduating year,” Melissa Hutchison said. “We know her heart would have been there with her classmates.”

To honor her senior year, proceeds from the race will also benefit Project Graduation. Past beneficiaries of the race include the Windham Primary School and the Make-A-Wish foundation. Last year the race raised $5,500 through sponsorships, donations and entrance fees.

Celine Baker, an upcoming senior at Windham High School and Kelli’s best friend, said the race is “a way to bring the community together. There’s an opportunity for everyone to take part – whether you want to run, walk or volunteer – and remember the fun, loving, upbeat girl Kelli was.”

Baker is a member of the Kelli Hutchison Memorial Playground Committee.

The race was started by St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in 2008 as a family event and a fundraiser for the church. It was originally called the St. Ann’s Fun Run.

Kelli was diagnosed with brain cancer in May 2008. The following summer, the first year of the fun run, the church decided to donate proceeds from the race to the Maine Cancer Foundation.

In 2010, before she died, the organizers asked if they could rename the race in Kelli’s honor, and she agreed.

The race has two course options: Runners take the cross-country trails behind the Windham High School grounds, while those who wish a more leisurely approach can walk around the campus, staying on the pavement.

Proceeds from the race will go to maintenance and upgrades at Kelli’s playground at St. Ann’s, including the addition of new picnic tables and umbrellas in the next year.

Mike Hutchison said the playground, like the race, captures Kelli’s spirit of enthusiasm and play, an enthusiasm he said was “infused with a big faith.”

Kelli “was very strong in her faith, even before she was ill,” her father said. Her faith sustained her through multiple surgeries and several months of regular radiation treatments.

“She was probably the bravest person I ever knew,” he said. “Through her faith, she recognized she’d be OK.”

The playground has become known as the “ladybug playground” in the community because of the two ladybug play structures at the site. Melissa Hutchison said ladybugs are an important symbol of Kelli because shortly before she died, she drew a picture of a ladybug flying upward and told her mother that if each member of their family were an insect, she would be a ladybug.

The ladybug is most famously a symbol of luck, but is also symbolic of devotion to God, Melissa Hutchison said.

Even while undergoing treatment, “she was so positive and upbeat,” a person who was unaware of her condition wouldn’t know she was being treated for cancer, Baker said.

“She was always concerned about everyone else, and when people worried about her, she made sure they knew she was fine,” Baker said. “Just her whole aura and outlook was so positive.”

Mike Hutchison, left, stands with Melissa Hutchison behind a ladybug toy at their daughter Kelli’s memorial playground. The seventh annual 5K race to raise money for upkeep at the playground will be held Aug. 13 at Windham High School.

Kelli Hutchison on her first day of kindergarten.

A closer look 

Kelli’s 5K will be held Saturday, Aug. 13, at Windham High School. Registration for the race is $15 until Aug. 11 and $20 on the day of. Windham students, youth at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church and senior citizens can participate for free. There is an option to run on a wooded trail course or walk a paved course. Both races start at 9 a.m. Day-of registration closes 30 minutes before the start. The first 50 paid registrants will receive a free Team Kelli T-shirt.

For more information or to register online, visit www.kellis5k.com.

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