Five friends – Iris Curriel, her husband Dave Finkas, Pat Rae, Bonny Curzon and Cheryl Anseth – enjoyed running together for years.
Curriel became sick last November and died in January from very aggressive lung cancer. While going through the loss, the other four wanted to honour her memory.
“When Iris died this January, we all were pretty shocked that she has passed away. What (could) we do?.. So we just started brainstorming,” recalled Anseth.
Anseth came up with an idea to put up a bench at the Woodlawn Regional Park trails, where they all used to run together, and others found the idea wonderful.
“It’s when you go through the trees, back of the soccer, football field. There is a trail back through the trees there. Iris was one of these people that liked trees and just feeling like you are in a forest when you are running through there. So she really liked that. And her husband picked out a spot… It overlooks the river and is back behind the trees, so it has some shade,” explained Anseth.
Woodlawn Park has specific benches they put in the park, which made the project quite straight forward and things started moving.
The friends realized that they needed to do some fundraising to cover the expenses. They also wanted to raise some money for cancer research, so they decided to make some T-shirts and sell them.
Curzon recalled that Curriel came into her life mainly through running, which in the end shaped their fundraising efforts.
“It’s probably been six or seven years when Iris started running with Cheryl, and Pat and I. And before that I met Iris when our kids played hockey together, about 12 years ago. So I first met her then, and then Pat said she was bringing a friend to run with us at Affinity… We didn’t know who that friend was, and all of a sudden Iris arrived. And I went, ‘Oh, I know Iris.’ So we go way back,” recalled Curzon.
Iris’ husband used to join the running buddies sometimes as well. And even though they all ran together for years, the two of them never participated in any running competition together, so they were really looking forward to this year’s Coal Country Run.
“This was going to be the year because we thought that was crazy that we’ve never run in the race together. And then she got sick… And then it never happened,” said Curzon with emotion.
So the friends came up with an idea of selling “I Run for Iris” T-shirts that all people who want to celebrate Curriel’s life could wear participating in the Coal Country Run.
Sunset Embroidery designed the T-Shirts, which also say “You run the race well!” on the back. Anseth explained that Curriel was quite competitive and always ran races well, so this phrase also was meant to commemorate her.
They made a few posts on social media about the fundraising and almost instantly Hank’s Maintenance stepped forward with a $1,000 donation towards the project.
“In this time of COVID and an economic downturn, I think this is totally remarkable and deserves recognition,” said Anseth.
The bench has arrived and Finkas put it together. The bench is paid for thanks to Hank’s Maintenance support and almost $600 has additionally been raised for cancer research so far. Anseth said that everybody was really pleased with the project. Not only was it a beautiful tribute to the life of a person they love and miss, but it also helped to go through the loss.
“It really helped with family and friends to have something that showed how much we appreciated her life here and how much she was valued as a person. That bench will be there for years and years and years,” said Anseth emotionally.
“It’s a tribute to her. It’s an honour to do this for Iris. It makes us feel good, that even though she lost her life, her legacy will live on because we’ll have this…” Curzon’s voice wavered. “Just the fact that the bench is there and she is remembered. She’ll always be remembered by people who knew her, but even people who didn’t know her will see that... And just the fact that all the funds go to cancer research, hopefully that will help in the future for finding cures for lung cancer and other cancers.”
Anseth, Curzon and a few other people in the community put their T-shirts on May 9, the day when Coal Country Run 2020 was supposed to happen, and headed out to different trails in Estevan to run or walk in memory of Curriel.
“We promised Iris before she died that we would do 5K for her, so we did our 5K on Saturday and it gave us a little bit of closure too,” said Anseth. “We did it for Iris and we thought about her all the way around.”
“She was such a humble person, so she never would want any attention. She was a very soft-spoken, humble person, so she didn’t like to be in the limelight, but it’s nice that she is,” said Curzon. “She was such a good, honest person … Some of us are still runners, and she’ll always be there. We always visualize her with us when we run. So I guess it inspires us to keep healthy and keep fit and keep going. She would have loved that, she really wanted us to continue either walking or running, whatever we do because she was a person who was really into fitness.”
Once the park opens, the Iris Curriel bench will be put on the Preddy Trails, which are a part of the Coal Country Run.
Iris T-shirts will still be sold until the Coal Country Run can happen, be it later this year or next year. They are $25 and to order a T-shirt people can contact Anseth at 306-421-0453 or Curzon at 306-421-5803.