Run builds legacy: Support for students' memorial award grows


More than 150 supporters joined Cease (2nd from left) and Tim Atkinson at their cabin on MaraLake to run in memory of U of C students Joah Atkinson and Brian Collins.

Cease Atkinson loves to run. She’s completed 11 marathons—which is more than 460 kilometres—not to mention numerous other races.

Running is part of her daily routine, but over the last several years it’s grown to become more than that. Now she also runs to help to keep her daughter’s memory alive.

Four years ago, Atkinson’s daughter, Joah, and her boyfriend, Brian Collins, both University of Calgary students and star rugby players, were killed in a pedestrian-vehicle accident. Soon after their death, a friend had the idea to create the Brian Collins and Joah Atkinson Memorial Award at the university. The endowment, which is now at $100,000, allows two student athletes each year to spend less time working and more time on academics and sports.          

The first summer, Atkinson and a friend decided to run the Calgary Marathon in honour of her daughter and Collins. This quickly inspired friends of the two students to join the run and collect pledges to raise money for the award—and the Forever Young Run was born.

More than 100 athletes participated, including a group of 68 people that Atkinson and her husband Tim organized to come by bus from their home in White Rock, B.C.

The Forever Young Run continued as part of the Calgary Marathon for the next two years. This past summer, the Atkinsons moved the run to their cabin on MaraLake in Sicamous, B.C.

Joah Atkinson and Collins spent many summers there and it was a special place for both of them. The halfway point between Collins’ home in Calgary and Atkinson’s in White Rock, it was the perfect spot to connect with their many groups of friends.

The Atkinsons hosted runners for a four-day weekend and race. Close to 150 people converged in their yard, pitched their tents and honoured the memory of the two young students.

 “The kids look forward to the run all year. Many of them have graduated and moved away now, but it’s an opportunity for them to reconnect with each other, with Joah and Brian,” says Atkinson. “Even people who didn’t know Brian and Joah come, because they’re inspired by the legacy.”

With the Brian Collins and Joah Atkinson Memorial Award firmly established, the Atkinsons are now looking into establishing awards for high-school rugby players who want to attend the U of C.

“Our goal is to make playing university sports more accessible. Sometimes students have to sacrifice their marks for the team or for work and that’s not fair,” says Atkinson. “Joah and Brian were all about making sure everyone had a fair chance.”

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