Back row, left to right: Amy Lawliss and Riya Patel. Front row, left to right) Ashley Frizzell, Sara Garvey, Jess O’Toole. (Missing from photo: Qianyue Liu.)

Friendship at the Heartof Upcoming 5K Event

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Thursday May 03, 2012

If you’re looking for the definition of true friendship and teen courage, you might try stopping by Dorset Park on May 19 at 10 a.m., where a group of South Burlington High School students will hold the “5K Walk/Run/Bike for Sara” in honor of their friend Sara Garvey, an SBHS senior who is battling leukemia.  The event is open to the community, and all proceeds will go to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The friends and organizers of the event are SBHS seniors Ashley Frizzell, Amy Lawliss, Qianyue Liu, and Jess O’Toole and SBHS junior Riya Patel, who, upon learning of Ms. Garvey’s diagnosis, immediately sprang to action, not only organizing the 5K event but also making a commitment to run in the Vermont City Marathon on May 27 as the self-named relay team “Sara-Thoners.”

“We have all been really shaken up by Sara’s diagnosis,” reflected Ms. O’Toole, “but Sara’s strength and determination have inspired us to be better people and make a difference.”

If Ms Garvey’s name sounds familiar, that’s because she is a standout Vermont runner, most recently setting a state record as part of a 4 x 200 meter relay team at the Vermont State Indoor Track Championships in January 2012.  Her diagnosis shortly after prevented her from being able to participate this year’s New England Indoor Track Championships.

It comes as no surprise to her friends that she is bringing the same determination and resilience from running to her battle with cancer.  “Sara has such an amazing personality,” noted Ms. Lawliss.  “She never complains, and she has a way of making people smile.”  Ms. Liu, describing Ms. Garvey as a “pillar of strength,” explained, “Sara is valued not only as a talented runner but as a leader by example on our team,” while Ms. Patel, the visionary behind the 5K event, agreed and added, “Sara is an inspiration to me as well as to many others.  I thought that someone so strong and persevering deserved something extra special. I wanted to show Sara how much love and support she has behind her.”

Already the Sara-thoners have felt the community’s support for their May 19 event, which will be family-friendly and will include face painting, tattoos, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and raffle prizes.  “I hope the greater community will be able to recognize heroes such as Sara,” explained Ms. Frizzell.  “I want this 5K event to raise awareness about leukemia and cancer as a whole and give the Garvey family so much support and love that they know that they will never be alone in coping with the costs—physical, financial, and emotional—of having to deal with this scary and mysterious disease we call cancer.”

“I think that this world has the potential to be a great place,” reflected Ms. O’Toole, “but people need to take action to make it this way. And that is what we are doing. Sara has been there for everyone throughout the years, and now it is our turn to be there for her.”

To find out how you can support the Sara-Thoners, please contact  Online registration for the 5K event is $10/$5 for children under 10 at  On-site registration on the day of the event is $12/$8 for children under 10.

Additional donations will be accepted at the event or online at

SOURCE: Susie Merrick, Contributor