Our community recently lost a glowing, creative, openhearted, loyal giver and connector.
Her name was Carrie Gilmore, and she was quite a spark.
I knew Carrie through a multitude of circles – which is probably what you’ll hear from anyone who knew and loved her. In her many spheres, she shared her spirit and sense of compassion in a way that made everyone feel like they had been chosen to be a part of something special. My “Carrie spheres” included the Pearsontown Elementary School walk-up line and PTA, her work with The Pink Pacers (a community group she and two close friends started that ended raising over $260,000 to support families affected by cancer) and her volunteer service as a coach for Girls on the Run of the Triangle (GOTR), the organization for which I am the executive director.
That GOTR sphere morphed quite fantastically, when I had the good fortune to hire Carrie as our community outreach coordinator. What made Carrie so exceptional at GOTR, and in every sphere she affected, was her earnest commitment to giving the very best of herself. There was nothing halfway about Carrie. Her smile was full on, her laughter filled a room and her energy was infectious. So, when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in the fall of 2015, at age 41, this vivacious mother of two beautiful daughters, this doer, this connector spirit chose to carry on and not let cancer affect one single element of her life. She remained the fullest friend, a dedicated employee, an active and loving wife and mother, an organizer of events and a giver of good things.
What is completely crushing for all of us who loved her is that while she never once gave in to cancer, it never really gave her a chance. When the end came suddenly on May 2, the loss was immediately filled by people wanting to do something. Facebook exploded with pictures of her smile, along with messages of condolences, and a hashtag, #CarrieOn, was quickly coined. Carrie’s memorial service required logistical gymnastics to fit over 500 people into Chapel of the Cross. The pews were filled with her fans of all ages, and there was glitter – lots of glitter – a most fitting tribute to a woman known often for sharing the quote: “She who leaves a trail of glitter will never be forgotten.”
Simply put, she made us all want to be better people.
Since her passing, I’ve been inundated with requests by those wanting to honor Carrie’s memory through a gift to GOTR. Each contribution that we’ve received comes with a story of Carrie attached to it – a memory of how she shared her sparkle. As I sat with these gifts, the image of being able to #CarrieOn by following her trail of glitter materialized and the GOTR Triangle Carrie Gilmore Memorial Fund was formed. The fund will recognize three girls – one elementary school-aged, one middle schooler and one rising college freshman. All three will exemplify the Girls on the Run values and the heart for service that Carrie displayed in her daily life. The younger winners will earn scholarships to participate in Girls on the Run and a cash award, while the rising college freshman will earn a $1,000 college scholarship. All three winners will also receive a significant donation to be made in their name to the nonprofit of their choice – a way to ensure the trail of glitter continues to extend year after year, girl after girl, never to be forgotten. Applications for the #CarrieOn Awards will soon be available, and the winners of the first ever #CarrieOn Award will be announced at the Girls on the Run Sweet 16 Gala on November 12.
While this trail of glitter is being paved, those who loved Carrie still encounter a myriad of complicated emotions that the death of some- one so beloved will bring. I take comfort in a GOTR lesson that avoids labeling feelings as “good” or “bad.” Feelings are feelings, and they are reflective of who you are, your values, your experiences and how you engage with the world around you. The people connected to all the “Carrie spheres” continue to feel a whole lot of feelings, but it is those feelings that will inspire us to #CarrieOn.