KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Over a year has passed since Herbert Hoover High School student Leah Strickland from Elkview passed away after a crash on I-79 on her way home from a soccer game.
However, Leah’s legacy lives on through the lives of those who knew and loved her. Her family created a Memorial scholarship fund in her honor, and to raise money towards the $20,000 scholarship goal, her family hosted the inaugural “Leah’s Legacy” race at Slack Plaza in Charleston on Sunday evening.
Hundreds of people ran for Leah as a way to honor her life and her legacy, even with rain.
“It’s so amazing how many people are out here supporting because she was a really amazing person and it just means a lot,” one of Leah’s close friends, Kendall Anderson, said.
Despite the challenges of losing their daughter, her family wanted to do more for Leah and their community.
“Honestly, I’m extremely happy and I’m excited. It’s hard. Every day is hard, but I’m extremely thrilled,” Leah’s dad Michael Strickland said.
To her community, Leah was more than a devoted athlete and a straight-A student.
“Her laugh is so contagious. It didn’t even matter what we were talking about. We were always cracking up around her,” Anderson said.
Several of Leah’s other friends who also played travel soccer with her said the same about her personality.
“She was just so kind and she always had your back,” her friend, Cora Kozen, said.
For Leah’s family, they see her impact every single day.
“She always brought a ray of light to the room. She was always smiling. Never didn’t have a smile. Was a handworker. Really cared about everybody around her and just had a huge heart,” Michael Strickland said.
“She was just our little bright star of wanting to succeed and just always pushing and persevering,” Leah’s mom Emily Strickland said.
Leah’s family said they want this tradition to carry on into the future, just like her impact.
Her friends and loved ones repeatedly emphasized that Sunday’s 5K was not just a regular race, but one that Leah personally would have been drawn to.
“I think she really would have really enjoyed this, and I think this was a great way to celebrate her life because she loved being an athlete,” Kozen said. “I think because instead of everybody being sad and everything about it about it, they’re out here having fun and remembering her life in a way that she would have enjoyed.”