DRAPER — Chrissy Ciancanelli was devastated after learning that not only had one of her dear friends died in a tragic accident, but that she had missed the funeral.
“My biggest feeling was regret, and I wanted to do something to say thank you,” said Ciancanelli. “It was such a huge loss, and I was so devastated.”
Ciancanelli had been texting Valerie Rae Bradshaw for several days after realizing the two hadn’t spoken in a few weeks. When Bradshaw didn’t respond, Ciancanelli resorted to Facebook. That’s where she learned the horrific news that Bradshaw, 29, had been killed in a boating accident at Lake Powell on June 20. Two other women were also killed when the boat they were riding in collided with a houseboat.
The shock was suffocating to Ciancanelli, who met Bradshaw when they were both attending Brigham Young University as English majors. Her grief was exacerbated by the fact that she didn’t get to say goodbye.
And then, one night, she woke up with an idea. It was an idea that would allow her to say goodbye to Bradshaw while honoring the light that the world had lost.
“I thought, ‘We could have a 5K and raise money for the (LDS) missionary fund,’ ” said Ciancanelli. “I totally think she planted a seed in my mind.”
Bradshaw was an avid runner who’d served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Italy. But the BYU graduate never really stopped serving her mission as she was always on the lookout for people in need of help, comfort or companionship.
“She’s been a missionary in two different wards,” said her mom, Viki Bradshaw. “She’s always been one who cared deeply about others. Her bishop actually asked her to go sit with people who might be alone or struggling. She just wanted to help people have better lives.”
One of those she loved well was her twin sister, Melanie Medaris.
“Being her twin, I always felt that I was her favorite,” said Medaris, who is due to deliver her first child later this month, a boy who will be named Asher Rae. “But she really treated everyone so special, and she made time for everyone, especially her nieces and nephews. She adored them and loved them and spent time making people happy. She’d sing them songs, make them smile. It’s what she did best, showing love to others.”
When the two attended Alta High School they would run together, even sharing the same “Discman” so they could listen to the same music.
“We’d each put in one headphone and run together,” she said. “We ran together a ton when we lived at BYU.”
So it seems natural to honor Bradshaw’s life with an activity she loved while raising money for a cause to which she dedicated so much of her life.
“Part of her calling in church was just to befriend others,” said Medaris. “She made everyone feel welcome and included.”
Bradshaw even made sure Medaris’ 30th birthday was special.
“We just turned 30 in August," said Medaris. “It was pretty unique. A month before she passed away she bought me a bunch of necklaces for our birthday.” Ciancanelli said that since she began organizing the Rae of Light 5K she’s experienced “so many miracles.”
“I’ve never felt like heaven could be closer to us,” said Ciancanelli, who is keeping a journal of the miracles that she’ll give to Bradshaw’s family after the race on Saturday, Sept. 28. “When people have a desire to do something good, they are definitely helped. All kinds of help has come our way.”
What would Valerie think of the effort to honor her? “I think it was her idea,” said her mom. “I think she’s thrilled.”
Adds Medaris, “I think it’s phenomenal. I couldn’t be more excited. Val would love it. She loved to do things and be involved, and I think she would have participated if it was anyone else, if she was here. She just loved to help in any way she could.”
For information about the race, see www.raeoflight5k.com.