The moon was still out when friends, family and volunteers gathered early Saturday morning to set up the Trevor Barnes 5K at the Lakeside Nationals Little League ballpark.
The 5K run was promoted as the inaugural event from Team TB11, a foundation named for Trevor Barnes, #11 throughout his years in baseball. Barnes took his own life on Jan. 6, 2018.
All proceeds from the 5K are slated to go toward funding teen suicide awareness and mental health programs at Granite Hills high school.
Spokesperson Shellie Donofrio manned the check-in table set up near the entrance to the ballfield for the roughly-300 registered runners as the earliest arrivals began to turn up for the event. One of the first on site was 19-year old Taylor Washington with a determined smile on her face, seemingly immune to the cold morning air that had everyone else shivering.
“Hailey, Trevor and I were three best friends growing up so keeping his memory alive is really important. Mental health awareness— we need to talk about it. Today is very important and I’m really excited to be here,” Washington said.
Patricia Seifert was another early arrival, more somber than celebratory as she lingered near the check-in table.
“This hits home for me because my mom passed from suicide. It was not heard about back then, everything was hush-hush. We looked at signs after the fact. If I’d known, if we’d had more awareness, maybe she would be here. I was a senior in high school with a 12-year old sister. It was very hard,” Seifert said.
Down at the ballfield, Eric Baldwin and Deena Curran shivered in the morning air as they set up a coffee station that held cups with waiting packets of hot chocolate and snacks for runners to enjoy a quick bite to eat before or after the 5K.
Alongside the snack table, Vanessa Bush of Bizzybows boutique pulled out a heat press to personalize ballcaps for attendees with a glass jar set up for donations to Team TB11.
The Reis family, owners of MTVTD gym had put together a second stopping point in the outfield with raffle tickets available for free workout sessions, as had Jenna Clegg of Bella’s Closet with 30% of all proceeds donated to the foundation.
At roughly 7:30 a.m., Mount Miguel Principal Jake Gaier pulled the crowd together from the microphone set up at home plate and officially opened up the event with his observation:
“The Barnes family- your strength is an inspiration to all of us… Suicide is the second most common death among teenagers and young adults. Bringing awareness to the situation creating something like this, well, an event like this does not just happen. Putting together something like this is an awesome test.”
A San Diego Sheriff helicopter appeared on the horizon as Gaier spoke, turning up to provide a flyover in memorial of Barnes. They circled the ballpark three times before Debbie Ledgerwood took to the podium and asked for attendees to bow their heads in prayer.
Granite Hills High School cheerleaders and friends of the Barnes family passed out red and blue balloons to attendees and asked everyone to count down from 11 before releasing them into the sky. More than a few people observed that one blue balloon distanced itself from the group and took flight in a different direction, all alone.
With minutes to go before the race began, the young ladies then led everyone in common dance moves to get the crowd warmed up and ready to run.
Barnes’ father, Dan leaned out over the fence and gave high-fives to runners as they took off down the course before he and Mona Barnes were given a swath of wide, yellow tape to hold in preparation at the finish line.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Barnes said.
Several people moved to help her unravel the tangled tape. The Barnes family then walked up and waited together at the finish line.