Pi Beta Phi hosts first Miles for Margaret

Race honors memory of deceased fourth-year student

This Saturday, roughly 650 runners participated in "Miles for Margaret," the first 5K race of its kind hosted by Pi Beta Phi Sorority, Camp Kesem and ADAPT, in memory of Margaret Lowe, a fourth-year College student who passed away Sept. 1, 2015.

Pi Beta Phi President Jodie Ehlers, alongside members Kaelyn Quinn, Taylor Puhl and many others began planning the event, which would become their new spring philanthropy, in October 2015.

“The idea originated when I was talking to Kaelyn Quinn, a fourth-year in Pi Phi and one of Margaret’s closest friends,” Puhl, a second-year College student and philanthropy chair, said. “We decided that this spring we wanted to do something to memorialize the amazing life Margaret lived, and since she loved the outdoors and being active we thought a 5k was the best way to show her passion.”

Though Lowe loved being outside in many capacities, including biking and hiking, running was an activity she loved as well as something she and her friends did to spend quality time with each other.

“We always knew that we wanted to do something to remember her, but when the question came about what to actually do, the race is an obvious choice because she was such a big runner,” Quinn, a College student, said. “She would run all around Charlottesville, and she had so many routes that she created. A race is so accessible … all you have to do is sign up and bring your two feet.”

Accessibility, in addition to uniting the University and local Charlottesville community, was a priority in planning the event.

“We knew we wanted to put on an event that everyone who wanted to be involved could come to and participate in — whether that is U.Va. students or Kesem campers,” Ehlers, a fourth-year College student, said. “We toyed with different event ideas, but ultimately felt that races were the most inclusive, had the most potential for growth and, of course, Margaret loved to run.”

Lowe’s friends have worked diligently for the past seven months to make Miles for Margaret a reality and success.

“I was vice president [of] philanthropy last year for Pi Phi and knew if we wanted to put on a huge event in Margaret’s honor that it needed to be planned far in advance,” Ehlers said.

Race-day registration opened at 8:30 a.m. at the Amphitheatre, where participants came to pick up their race bibs and t-shirts. The race began at 10 a.m. after a few words from Lowe’s parents, who flew in from Nashville. After the race, participants were welcomed to gather in the Amphitheatre to hear live music performed by Louis Smith and enjoy refreshments.

Margaret’s friends in Pi Beta Phi chose to collaborate in planning and splitting the proceeds evenly between Pi Beta Phi's Read, Lead, Achieve Foundation supporting literacy, Camp Kesem and ADAPT to reflect Lowe’s vast effect on the community.

“Margaret was the president of ADAPT and deeply involved in Camp Kesem, and she was a committee member of Pi Phi … if we were going to host an event in her memory, it should be bigger than Pi Phi and encompass how broad and deep her impact at U.Va. was,” Quinn said.

Lowe’s participation in many organizations was characteristic of who she was as a person: someone with a wide range of interests and passions as well as a great capacity for action.

“Our first conversation happened at dinner at the Pi Phi house one night last year,” Puhl said. “I asked about what she was studying and she told me she was majoring in Classics. Quickly after she told me about how she was also pre-med, and I think that’s a great snapshot of Margaret. There was always so much more to her than I ever expected, and every time I learned something new about her I was amazed all over again.”

Phi Phi had many short-term goals for their year, as well as long-term goals looking forward for the execution and growth of Miles for Margaret.

“I honestly think that the goal this year, especially with it being our first race and it being so soon after she passed, is for us to be able to remember her in a way that is happy and joyful,” Quinn said. “We hope that it just continues to grow every year.”

In the future, the Miles for Margaret team hopes the race will continue to have increasing participation, raise awareness for the organizations it supports and above all, continue to allow the community to remember Lowe, as well as challenge students to consider what impact they wish their lives to have.

“[I hope] that it will go on forever,” Ehlers said. “Forty years from now I will come back [to] U.Va. and it will still be happening in the same spirit … to celebrate the life of Margaret Lowe and our one ‘wild and precious life.’”

related stories