Big plans are under way for this year's Love Rocks Run, the annual Forest Grove 5K run and community fair which returns this month to Tom McCall Upper Elementary School.
Since 2015, runners have gathered at the school to remember sisters Abigail Robinson, 11, and Anna Dieter-Eckerdt, 6, who were struck and killed by a car across from their home in 2013.
The girls' deaths galvanized the town and sparked a new state law that went into effect this year related to hit-and-run drivers. The girls' parents, Tom Robinson and Susan Dieter-Robinson of Forest Grove, launched several initiatives to help give back to the community.
"How do you thank people for holding you through the worst of times?" Dieter-Robinson said.
In the months following their family tragedy, Susan began making Love Rocks — small stones affixed with colored fabric hearts. She passed them on to people who needed encouragement and support. In 2015, the family launched the Love Rocks Run. The annual fundraiser — scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon June 29 at Tom McCall, 1255 S.W. Pacific Ave. — includes a 5K, a kids' dash and a community fair showcasing local businesses and nonprofits.
Dieter-Robinson said the outpouring of support she and her family continue to receive from the community amazes her.
"When something horrible happens, people surround you with love," she said. "In our case, this community has done nothing but wrap us up in its arms. People were there for us, and people were there for them because they were there for us."
Proceeds from the inaugural 2015 run went toward the development of Anna and Abby's Yard — a planned memorial playground honoring the sisters at Rogers Park in Old Town Forest Grove. This year, proceeds will go to the Love Rocks Foundation, a new nonprofit group formed last year to help give back to the community, Dieter-Robinson said.
Starting in 2020, the foundation plans to donate at least $10,000 to local nonprofits in the Forest Grove area through students at Forest Grove High School.
The idea is that students can apply and give the awarded money to the nonprofit of their choice, said Dieter-Robinson, who wanted to launch the program the year her oldest daughter, Abigail, would have been a senior at Forest Grove High.
"A lot of people wanted to form a scholarship program in the girls' honor five-and-a-half years ago, but I never felt like that was right," Dieter-Robinson said. "After we saw how much funds we could generate with the Love Rocks Run, we wanted to give back to the community. We realized, 'How can we do this and have a greater impact? What if we allow the kids to be the ones to gift the money?'"
Dieter-Robinson said her foundation plans to give around a dozen $1,000 awards to nonprofits that do work in the Forest Grove area.
"I want the foundation to become this umbrella that can house everything and give back to Forest Grove," Dieter-Robinson said, adding that the 2020 awards are her way of doing something for Abigail's classmates. She said it was important to get high school students involved.
"They knew Anna, and they knew Abby," Dieter-Robinson said. "Those grades, and all the grades in between, were severely impacted by what happened."
Registration for this year's run is $12 to $35 through June 8, with increased prices after Saturday. Information can be found at love-rocks.org.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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