Despite the rainy conditions, University students and the Charlottesville community had no trouble finding sunshine at the fourth annual Miles for Margaret 5K that honors former University student Margaret Lowe.
Lowe passed away in 2015, four days into her fourth year at the University, from a brain aneurysm. Four years after her passing and three years after the first race in April 2016, Lowe’s legacy continues to positively influence University students today.
Over 300 participants gathered on the Lawn April 14 to participate in the event and demonstrate Margaret’s trademark selflessness. The event raised over $6,000 for three different organizations that Lowe was actively involved in including the Pi Beta Phi Literacy Fund, Camp Kesem and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Team.
Lindsay Klein, fourth-year College student and Pi Beta Phi sorority sister of Lowe, chose to run in remembrance of Lowe’s ever-present positivity which she said helped her through the pressures of a stressful college atmosphere.
“I think sunshine was a big part of her legacy because everyone who knew her always said she was so happy,” Klein said. “She was always someone you could turn to if you were upset because she would drop everything to help you. I think that’s something that’s hard to do in college when everything tends to be so self-focused. She was one of those people that would get you out of your own head.”
Sandy Lowe, Lowe’s mother, described herself and the rest of the family as overjoyed by the overwhelming support from the University community, including runners who, without ever meeting Lowe, were inspired by her reputation.
“What we are in awe of is that none of these students today knew her, but they’re supporting her causes,” Sandy Lowe said. “The impact of this race is that people care. They don’t know her, but they care about her causes, and that’s why they come.”
Allie Acker — race organizer, philanthropy chair for Pi Beta Phi and second-year College student — was motivated enough to assume this leadership position because of Lowe’s activist model that Acker wishes her Pi Beta Phi sisters will choose to embody.
“Margaret’s legacy is a lot about spreading sunshine, and her nickname was actually ‘Sunshine’ while she was here because she was always so happy and involved on Grounds and really wanted to help others,” Acker said. “I think that’s her legacy especially within Pi Phi. It’s focused on community service and just being happy and positive.”
Funds from the race are divided three ways amongst the groups that Lowe was most passionate about. The Pi Beta Phi Literacy Fund donates books to local communities and encourages reading and leadership through mentorship efforts. ADAPT is a team of student peer educators that promote awareness of the dangers of substance abuse, provides educational outreach to students and serves as an accessible resource for University students. Camp Kesem is a free, week-long camp for children and their families who have been affected by cancer.
Susie Bruce, director of the Gordie Center at Student Health and former ADAPT advisor for Lowe while she was a student at University, vividly remembers Lowe’s exuberance and devotion to helping others.
“She definitely was sunshine and bubbly and really passionate about making the University a better place,” Bruce said. “She just made everything fun and was really caring about fellow students. That was her passion and anybody who knows her just really misses her every day.”
Bruce was astounded by Lowe’s unwavering motivation to serve others and the accomplishments she could achieve with this inspiration as a driving force.
“I think she really embodies the best of the University,” Bruce said. “She was brilliant. She was a scholar, and she cared about making the University and the community a better place … She spoke to over 2,000 students if you tallied out all the presentations she gave for ADAPT. I think it was 75 presentations in 2 years.
Sahil Patel, fourth-year College student and director of Camp Kesem, witnessed the lasting impact Lowe had on the campers over the years. He describes her optimism among the campers and counselors.
“All the campers at camp, the ones that have been there for years, still know her and they loved her,” Patel said. “Obviously, everyone came here today for a reason, which is awesome.”
Lowe’s influence lives on and continues to impact the campers’ experiences by helping to fund various aspects that ensure the camp runs smoothly and remains free to the campers.
“It’s important to remember people that made a difference in people’s lives,” Patel said. “Obviously, Margaret was super involved and was passionate about what she did. So whether the money is going towards food or renting out the place, or shirts for example, it’s just great to see the funds help continue to spread the sunshine.”
Sandy Lowe encouraged the crowd to honor her daughter by urging runners to participate in honor of something or someone greater than themselves in order to continue Lowe’s example of doing good for others.
“We miss her every day, but her legacy lives on, and what I want to emphasize for you today is to run for someone you love or somebody who might be struggling or someone that might be doing really well,” Sandy Lowe said. “I think it’s incredible that you all have shown up on this rainy day. We’re going to spread some sunshine anyway.”