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5K event to honor slain Oakbrook Terrace woman
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

Lauren Kiefer

 

Lauren Kiefer

 

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Published: 6/18/2008 12:07 AM | Updated: 6/18/2008 2:51 PM

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The family of a slain Oakbrook Terrace woman has found a way amid their grief to celebrate her life and help others.

The second annual Lauren Marie Kiefer 5K run/walk returns Saturday at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park. The event supports a memorial foundation in her honor that awards college scholarships and helps crime victims and children.

At 24, Kiefer was the fun party girl with a constant grin who loved family, friends, shoes, purses and rooting for her cherished Chicago Cubs.

But she also had a more serious side. After her 2000 high school graduation, Kiefer enrolled at Columbia College in Chicago, studying communications. She graduated in 2005 and had been working as a full-time sales associate in marketing after dabbling in some local modeling.

She died Christmas Day 2006 while trying to fend off a brutal attack - allegedly from a neighbor who police said broke into her home near Oakbrook Terrace. The man committed suicide in jail Dec. 14 while awaiting trial.

The Kiefer family realized early on that focusing on Lauren's vibrant life rather than violent death was the best way to honor her.

Thus, the Lauren Kiefer Memorial Foundation was born. To date, it has raised $50,000 and is just getting started.

"Lauren was the most compassionate, kind and giving person," said her mother, Janice Kiefer. "To honor her this way is so appropriate. Lauren made every person she met feel special with her kind ways."

Janice Kiefer came up with the idea of creating a 5K in recognition of her daughter's love of fitness. Her other daughter, Carli Bettini, joined in the effort.

Months later, with the help of friends such as Susan Mika, April Pizzotti Domin and Candy Richardson, it has grown into an organization with a much larger mission.

The foundation recently awarded two $5,000 college scholarships in Lauren's name at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, where she graduated. Her mother still works in the athletic department.

Organizers said another goal of the foundation is to provide financial assistance to local crime-victims group and those that aide children as a way to help other families and raise awareness about violence against women. The foundation has contributed to groups such as the DuPage Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and York Center Food Center.

Last year, more than 1,000 runners, sponsors and volunteers made the 5K a success despite the rain. This year's event also features raffle and door prizes, including four Tom Petty concert tickets, massage tables and refreshments. A children's race also is being offered.

"Lauren would love what we are doing," Janice Kiefer said, "because she was kind to all people that she met. She is still working from where she is at to bring people together. Lauren is truly a beautiful light in so many lives."

How you can help

The Lauren Kiefer Memorial Foundation was set up to establish annual college scholarships at Willowbrook High School and to contribute to local crime victims group in an effort to help other families and raise awareness about violence against women.

• The second annual Lauren 5K family run/walk will be Saturday at Willowbrook High School, 1250 S. Ardmore Ave., Villa Park. Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.; the race steps off at 9 a.m. Pre-registration is $25. Children 13 and younger are free.

• Donations may be made to the Lauren Kiefer Memorial Foundation, Inc. at Harris Bank, 10 S. Villa Ave., Villa Park, IL. 60181.

• For more information, or to register for the race, visit www.rememberlaur.com.