I have always appreciated what a great place Juneau is for raising a family. Children here have not only a beautiful natural environment to nurture their spirits, but their lives are touched by any number of dedicated and caring teachers, coaches, church youth ministers, and businesses and organizations who welcome young people as employees and volunteers. There is a sense of belonging in a small town where practically everyone you know is at the Fourth of July parade.
Both of my daughters have been part of the cross country and track teams at JDHS. Through their experiences we have known success and disappointment but, above all, the immeasurable value of setting goals and being a part of a team family which supports its members. It has been inspiring to witness the dedication of these young athletes and the camaraderie and sportsmanship which exists in competitions among Southeast Alaska students. Our life in Juneau has well-prepared our children for the path they may choose into adulthood.
Among the many positive things our children have experienced in their high school years I am also reminded of a somber event which, for some, was equally as formative their lives. In the gathering darkness of a late November afternoon nearly three years ago, a young man went for his daily run up Perseverance Tail. Ben Blackgoat was a gifted athlete who found inspiration in the mountains of Juneau. His goal was to run this trail as often as possible so as to prepare himself to be a nationally competitive runner. This particular afternoon, a day before Thanksgiving, Ben challenged the mountain once again. Unknown to him, there were dangerous icy conditions on the trail. Ben fell to his death, breaking the hearts of the many who loved and admired this exemplary young man.
Ben's death was a reminder that life, even well-deserved young life, can be fleeting. We are fortunate to have an active running community in Juneau who looks out for one another. After Ben's death, the Southeast Road Runners decided to dedicate an annual race to his memory. The third annual Ben Blackgoat Memorial run will be held this July 1 on Perseverance Trail. I know that my daughters and other teammates of Ben will be there, come rain or shine, to run another one for their friend. They know that their own personal goals have more meaning because of Ben's example. They would love to have you join them - whether pounding your feet on the trail or cheering from the sidelines. After all, it's a community event, a time to appreciate what we have here and remember who has shared the trail with us.