The fifth annual Tears to Hope Relay Run, an event that seeks to raise awareness for missing and murdered people in northwestern B.C., successfully took place from June 23 to 25, encompassing routes from Prince Rupert, Gitlax̱t’aamiks, Kitimaat Village and Smithers and concluding in Terrace.
The Tears to Hope Society, the organizing body behind the relay, support families affected family members who have gone missing or who have been murdered.
Initially, the event was focused on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. However, over the years, it has expanded to include all missing and murdered individuals in the region.
Tears to Hope Society Executive Director Lorna Brown shared her personal connection to the cause in an interview with The Terrace Standard, saying her niece, Tamara Chipman, disappeared near Prince Rupert on September 21, 2005. The society’s name was coined by her cousin, Florence Naziel, during a time of heightened disappearances in their community of Witset (formerly Moricetown) west of Smithers on Hwy16.
“When Tamara went missing, it got our family involved in this cause,” Brown shared. “Florence initiated the first walk, and my sister, Gladys Radek, continued organizing walks across Canada.”
The shift from walks to runs came from a suggestion by their friend, Birgitte Bartlett, an avid runner. The group saw the potential in this and decided to make it an annual event.
“The run serves a two-fold purpose; it raises awareness and promotes health and wellness, particularly among young women and girls, encouraging allies to contribute to the solution,” Brown stated. She emphasized the universality of the issue, stating, “It’s not an Indigenous problem. It’s a problem that all Canadians need to confront.”
The Tears to Hope Relay Run initially started in two directions — Smithers and Prince Rupert — and ending in Terrace. Subsequent events expanded the routes, incorporating Gitlax̱t’aamiks in the Nass Valley and Kitamaat Village, just east of Kitimat, with all routes converging in Terrace. A virtual component allows global participation.
A poignant feature of the relay is the display of pictures of the missing individuals along the routes. Each runner thus becomes a part of the unique story of the person they run for.
“This year, we have 50 different people on signs, primarily focusing on the Highway of Tears cases,” said Brown. “These are not mere numbers; these are people with families, with stories.”
Brown expressed her astonishment at the tendency of many to avoid discussing such a pressing issue. She remarked, “What if it was your daughter or your son? It is crucial to keep the faces and stories of the missing individuals in our minds.”
The Tears to Hope Relay features 10-kilometre markers, where each runner is running for a specific person. “The fact that a complete stranger will take time and run 10-kilometres for that loved one means so much to the families,” said Brown.
Brown recounted a heart-wrenching moment from this year’s event, saying that “a mother of one of the missing girls said she felt she could begin to heal knowing that somebody cared that her daughter had gone missing.”
The Tears to Hope Society remains steadfast in their mission to raise awareness and support the affected families. “Through the relay, we show their beautiful faces, reminding everyone that they were people with families who are loved. We should all care the same,” concluded Brown.
Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.