Finish Chelsea's Run attracts 8,000 to Balboa Park in honor of slain teen

The memory of one local teenager was kept alive Saturday morning in a race that helps build futures for other youth through scholarships and a message of hope and kindness.

“Again, you guys have brightened our day, our lives, in ways you will never be able to imagine,” said Kelly King at the starting line of the 8th annual Finish Chelsea’s Run, which honors the memory of her daughter, Chelsea.

“This is the biggest outpouring of love and a reflection of one of the best communities in the entire country,” she said.

The Saturday event attracted about 8,000 people who ran either a 5K course through Balboa Park or a shorter stretch on the Sixth Avenue side of the park.

Chelsea King’s body was found March 2, 2010, five days after the 17-year-old failed to return from a jog at a park near Lake Hodges. Her murderer later confessed to also killing Escondido resident Amber Dubois, 14.

After attending Chelsea’s memorial service, radio show producer Tommy Sablan said he was so moved by the word’s of her father, Brent, that he and four others decided to create their own memorial for her about two weeks later.

The idea was to finish Chelsea’s run, and Sablan expected 100 people to show up at the Lake Hodges trail for the inaugural event. About 3,500 showed up, he told the crowd at the starting line Saturday, and the run became an annual event and was moved to Balboa Park.

“As I look into the crowd, I see Chelsea King everywhere,” Sablan said Saturday. “I see Amber Dubois everywhere. Chelsea and Amber Dubois will never be forgotten, and they will be forever in our hearts.”

Sablan also said the event is more than a race.

“We’re making a statement that we believe there needs to be a change in the world,” he said. “And we believe we need to protect our children.”

Brent and Kelly King and their son moved to the Chicago area seven years ago, but they often return to San Diego for their work with Chelsea’s Light Foundation, which funds scholarships and Girl Scouts leadership programs with money raised from the annual run.

The foundation has raised $500,000 and funded scholarships for 75 students over the years, said Brent King. Recipients are chosen not through grades or need, but based on their desire and ability to change the world, he said.

“What we have learned with everything we’ve been through with all of you is that it’s how you respond that matters,” he said at the starting line. “And San Diego knows how to respond. We respond by loving each other and by hugging each other and by showing up for each other.”

Chelsea also is remembered through Chelsea’s Law, which toughened sentences for people convicted of sex offenses against children in California.

Among the runners Saturday were 1,000 Girl Scouts and 216 students from Poway High School, which Chelsea attended.

Poway High track coach Robby Sevier said the run is especially meaningful for staff members who knew Chelsea, but also is special for the entire school.

“I think the school always takes pride in the run, and a lot of that’s because of Chelsea’s presence in Poway,” he said. “Our track team declined to go to other meets today so they could run here.”

oway High senior Jonah Gonzalez said the race is important to the community, and classmate Donovan Bercasio, also a senior, was touched by how many people from outside of Poway participate.

“It’s so great, with Poway being such a small community, to see so many in San Diego come out and run a 5K and do what she loved best,” Bercasio said.

Her parents met runners at the finish line with hugs, high-fives and back slaps throughout the morning.

The second person to cross the finish line was Cuyamaca College student Awal Hussen, 20, an Ethiopian native whose time was 16:03. He was followed by Moise Maombi, 18, a Hoover High School senior and Uganda native whose time was 16:05.

Finishing ahead of both was another man who ran across the finish line, then just kept running. By the time of the awards ceremony later that morning, the announcer said the winner finished with a time of 15:38, but had not come forward and was known only as “Unknown participant, number 1942.”

Twitter: @GaryWarthUT


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