Crowds walk in remembrance of Caitlin at Elgin event
By Erin Sauder For The Courier-News June 16, 2012 4:28PM
Caitlin Weese's stepfather Joel Mains speaks to the crowd before Saturday's walk at St. Thomas More School in Elgin. 6/16/12. | Erin Sauder ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:44AM
ELGIN — St. Thomas More School in Elgin was overrun with pink T-shirts, pink balloons and even pink hair Saturday morning during the ninth annual Walk 5K for Caitlin event.
Held in memory of Caitlin E. Weese, who was killed by a repeat drunken driver in May 2003, the walk draws about 200 people each year, said Kirkland resident Emily Mains, stepsister of Caitlin.
“It’s grown every year,” she said.
Caitlin’s death occurred three weeks before her 18th birthday and one week before what would have been her graduation from Larkin High School in Elgin.
In 2004, Caitlin’s mother and stepfather, Diane and Joel Mains, founded the Caitlin E. Weese Charitable Trust, aka Walk 5K for Caitlin. This 501(c) 3 charitable organization funds a college scholarship to a Larkin High School student in memory of Caitlin; helps support St. Thomas More School, which hosts the walk each year; and supports the victims assistance fund for the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.
Saturday’s attendees included friends, family, community members, parents of children killed by drunken drivers, and Larkin High School graduate Brenna Molik, the second Caitlin E. Weese scholarship recipient.
Molik used the money toward her nursing degree tuition at Bradley University.
“I’m so appreciative of the scholarship,” she said. “It got me to my dreams.”
Before the walk began, Joel Mains thanked the participants.
“I don’t think any of us can find words to express how grateful we are,” he said.
Mom of another victim
Forest Park resident Burlene Smith participated in Saturday’s walk on behalf of her own son, Wayne J. Smith Jr., who was killed by a drunken driver in 2007.
“I became involved with (Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists) and I got so much support,” she said. “I’m planning to do a walk in honor of my son next year.”
Schaumburg resident Kelly Barnes has been a longtime participant in the event.
“It’s grown a lot over the years, but it’s also changed a lot,” she said. “Because so many more people are involved, it’s getting a lot more support.”
Raffles and a silent auction followed the walk, with items including sports memorabilia, restaurant gift certificates, entertainment packages, cash prizes and a handmade quilt designed and constructed in memory of Diane Mains and Caitlin Weese.
The event also culminated in a balloon launch, where hundreds of pink balloons were released into the air in honor of Caitlin.
In August 2006, Diane Mains died unexpectedly at the age of 48. The official cause of death was complications of heart surgery, but her friends and family believe that she succumbed to a broken heart after the loss of her child.
Mains was the main driving force of the Walk 5K for Caitlin and, to honor her, family and friends continue to work even harder to make sure this legacy remains a success. The goal is to eventually make the scholarship self-sustaining so there will always be a Caitlin E. Weese Scholarship, and to continue to support AAIM and its initiatives.
“We’re hoping that the ninth annual walk will be the most successful yet, with the continued support of our family, friends and community,” Emily Mains said.