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April 24, 2012 7:52 am

Kerrigan’s Run for a Reason

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Following unexplained death of 4-year-old, family plans July fundraiser in her name

On Thanksgiving Day 2010, 4-year-old Kerrigan Richardson did not wake up.

“Our lives were forever changed,” wrote her parents, Brandon and Angela (Foulger) Richardson. “To this day, the cause of her death is still unknown.”

Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over 12 months. It’s a diagnosis of exclusion, given when all known causes of death have been ruled out, Angela explained. SUDC can be neither predicted nor prevented.

“Perfectly healthy children go to sleep and just don’t wake up,” she said.

To increase awareness and raise money for The Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Program, the Richardsons are organizing Kerrigan’s Run for a Reason this summer.

“In memory of Kerrigan, we have created this event. Our hope is that one day a ‘reason’ will be found,” the Richardsons wrote on the event’s website, www.kerrigansrun.com.

Kerrigan’s Run takes place Saturday, July 14 at Homesteader Park and includes a 5K run for adults and children over 10 and a 2K family fitness walk for adults and children over 10. In preparation for the July event, the Richardsons are gathering help from sponsorships, volunteers and donations.

The July event will honor Kerrigan’s life — the full four years she lived as an adventurous, happy and beautiful little girl.

“She loved life … she loved everything about it,” Angela said.

Angela describes her daughter as vibrant — “a little ball of fire wrapped in a blonde-haired, blue-eyed picture of childhood innocence.”

Kerrigan enjoyed four-wheeling with her dad, Angela said, calling her “Daddy’s wing man.”

“She was also Mommy’s little princess, who loved to help in the kitchen, have girls’ movie night, put on makeup and play dress-up. She adored being the center of attention and always knew how to make the spotlight shine directly on her,” she said.

Kerrigan enjoyed singing, dancing and playing the piano. She sang along with Disney movies and was a big fan of “Glee” on television.

“Books had long held a deep fascination with her, and the highlight of Kerrigan’s month would be the book sale at the library,” Angela added. “Her absolute favorites were the Berenstain Bears series, many of which she would memorize and read along with Daddy before bedtime, though she would happily crawl into your lap with any book as long as you promised to read it to her.”

The 4-year-old was excited to learn and attended two local preschools. She was eager to begin kindergarten.

Kerrigan also eagerly anticipated meeting her baby brother.

Just two weeks after Kerrigan’s death, Angela gave birth to a baby boy, Jasper.

“She was so excited to be a big sister,” Angela said.

This summer’s Run for a Reason takes place just a couple weeks before what would have been Kerrigan’s sixth birthday — July 25.

The family hopes the run will become an annual event in the Big Horn Basin.

“We want to let people know it’s out there and happening to real families,” Angela said.

Before Kerrigan’s death, Brandon and Angela had never heard of SUDC. She said they don’t know of any other Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood cases in the Rocky Mountain Region.

It occurs in about one death per 100,000 children. By comparison, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is about 50 times more common.

The SUDC Program was founded in 2001 as part of the CJ Foundation for SIDS. The program provides information, support services and advocacy, and it promotes research, Angela said. Laura Crandall and Chelsea Hilbert, both whom lost children to SUDC, co-founded the organization.

The Run for a Reason was founded in 2003 by Jennifer and Mitchell Best in Minneapolis, Minn., in honor of their son, Max.

“By hosting Kerrigan’s Run for a Reason, we hope to spread the word about SUDC. It is our hope that no family should suffer the loss that we have experienced. It is also our hope that we can preserve Kerrigan’s memory, honor her life and keep her special spirit alive in the hearts of all who knew her,” Angela wrote.

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