by Ellarry Prentice
A little lake, surrounded by lots of hope.
That will be Lake Francis in Sartell on Saturday, when loved ones will walk along the shore to support those who’ve lost someone close to them. The fourth annual Rays of Hope Walk on Oct. 3 will begin with a remembrance ceremony at 10 a.m. followed by a walk around the loop at 10:30 a.m. The site is located by the Sartell Community Center at 850 19th St. S.
The remembrance ceremony will take place at the Angel of Hope statue. Nestled along the shores of Lake Francis, it is a place where people can gather to grieve the loss of their child or loved one. Below the statue, inscribed in pavers, are names of loved ones who’ve passed away.
This year, participants have the option of participating in the in-person walk or a virtual walk. Registration for the in-person walk is open to teams and individuals and begins at 9:30 a.m. in the community center. There is a fee for both adult and youth ages 13 to 17. Children 12 and under can participate for free. Awards will be given to the top individual and the top team.
Instructions for participating in the virtual walk can be accessed at Eventbrite.com by searching for Rays of Hope Walk on the website. Participants are asked to follow those instructions on the day of the walk, at approximately 9:45 a.m.
Remembrance signs will be available to purchase. Signs include a photo of a loved one along with a memorial message.
The event is hosted by What Would Bri Do Inc., a non-profit established in memory of BriAnna Kruzel, who passed away unexpectedly in September 2013. Kruzel, who was just 18 when she passed away from unknown causes, devoted much of her young life to volunteering through organizations close to her heart, including Girl Scouts and Big Brothers Big Sisters, and was very involved with the Sartell Community Ed dance program.
Established by Kruzel’s family and friends, What Would Bri Do is dedicated to supporting people and organizations in need while being a force for positivity in the world. According to its mission statement, What Would Bri Do helps individuals cope with loss, supports their healing, nurtures their physical and emotional well-being, and brings hope for the future, as “no one should grieve alone.” During the past five years, What Would Bri Do has supported many causes that BriAnna believed in and distributed approximately $50,000 to those in need.
Currently, What Would Bri Do is committed to building a space for people who are grieving. Funds raised at this year’s Rays of Hope Walk will be used to build Bri’s Lodge. The grief lodge in Central Minnesota will provide support for people who’ve lost a child at any age, a spouse, a parent, or a sibling; who’ve experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth; who’ve lost a loved one to suicide; or who’ve experienced a loss in their community.
Throughout their grief journey, BriAnna’s parents, Tami and Randy Kruzel, said they struggled to understand and cope with their loss. In February 2018, the Kruzels visited a lodge in Wisconsin that provides a peaceful space for people to gather with others who’ve experienced a painful loss. There, they spent several days with other couples who’d also lost children. The Kruzels “left this weekend with the sense of hope in their grief journey and made it their personal mission to bring a similar concept to Central Minnesota,” states What Would Bri Do’s website, wwbdinc.org. They were “truly inspired by their dedication to supporting those who have lost a child.”
For more information about Saturday’s Rays of Hope Walk, visit www.eventbrite.com, and type “Rays of Hope Walk” in the search bar at the top of the page.