When Payton Comazzetto looked back on her favourite times spent with her brother Brennan, most of those memories surrounded the holiday season.
So it only made sense that when she started a fundraiser last year to honour his memory, that it was themed around the Christmas season. As part of the service learning course she was taking, the sixth-year adventure therapy student at Thompson Rivers University organized the first-ever Brennan's Ugly Sweater Run.
"I was bouncing ideas (around) of what kind of Christmas run we could do because last year the Santa shuffle was also around the same time," she says. "Someone asked if an ugly sweater run would work and I thought that was perfect. Every Santa photo that I have with Brennan, we are wearing the most atrocious outfits on the planet and I can't believe my mom dressed us in that. It just seemed to fit perfectly."
Brennan died in 1999, but it's still a fresh memory for Comazzetto. The family was out for a bike ride one evening when 10-year-old Brennan went through a stop sign and was hit by a drunk driver.
"I've struggled with post-traumatic stress for quite a few years, with flashbacks and everything, so it's been quite difficult," Comazzetto tells KamloopsMatters. "But this run has actually been quite helpful in processing everything and making something positive after such a traumatic event."
The recipients of all that positive work are the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops, particularly their Power Start program. Comazzetto also settled on that being the charity of choice based on childhood memories."When we were kids, we had these Boys and Girls Club T-shirts and I always remembered that," she says. "And because we were kids at the time, I just felt it was fitting for kids who were going through some other kind of trauma in their life to be supported through that. A lot of kids that access the Power Start program, it's one of the only meals they're fed in the entire day, so that in itself can be pretty worrisome. I can't imagine being a child going through that, so that's why I targeted them for the proceeds.
"There are about 130 kids in Kamloops who are currently accessing that program and it's quite underfunded. They have to fundraise to keep the program going."
Last year's inaugural run drew 140 participants and raised $7,570 for the Power Start program: not too shabby for an event Comazzetto says they had about two weeks to put together.
This time around, with extra preparation, they've already gotten around 70 people registered and over $1,700 raised. Local businesses have also donated some 55 prizes for a raffle at the end of the run. So the odds are pretty good you'll be leaving the event with more than just an ugly sweater on your back.
The 5 km walk or run starts at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2, at the West Highlands Community Centre. A DJ will provide the Christmas music throughout, and the event will go snow or shine. (Comazzetto's stepdad Stan Barron has a tractor plow and can clear off the route if need be.)
To sign up, it's a minimum donation of $10 (individual) or $35 for a family.
"It's pretty hard to believe how many kids in Kamloops access the program because you don't think kids are going hungry in the city, but it's definitely a need that I saw," says Comazzetto.