Letisha Reimer made it her mission to make people smile.
She liked to throw goofy jokes into everyday conversations with her family – mom Ellie, dad Uli and siblings Xander, 7, and Taya, 9.
Since her death – in a random stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Nov. 1, 2016 – the Reimers have had little to smile and laugh about.
But in the months since losing the vibrant teen, who would have turned 14 in December, they’ve taken up her cause.
“There’s times where we’re all in the car … if I know she would have said something – one of those silly teenager jokes – I’ll add that in there, or one of the kids will,” Uli says.
Letisha had another mission: to make the world a better place through charity and volunteer work.
And the Reimers are taking on that mission as well.
Sparked by a family friend, they have formed Team Letisha, a group of friends and family who plan to raise funds and race together in this year’s Run for Water on May 28 at Mill Lake Park. Letisha had participated in the annual event, which raises money to build clean water wells in poor Ethiopian communities, for the past five years.
When a request came in for special Team Letisha shirts, the organization’s executive director, Peg Peters, was inspired.
He had heard about Letisha’s dedication to the run and how her racing bibs had been displayed at her celebration of life ceremony in November.
“When I contacted Uli and Ellie, I said, ‘What if we did something a bit bigger? What if we did a well for an entire community and we put a plaque in her honour; call it Letisha’s Well,’ ” Peters says. “What a way to honour her passion and her heart as a way to allow the family and the community to come around something and heal.”
Uli says Run for Water was just one of several ways Letisha gave back to the world. She also participated in charitable missions through her church, including handing out warm blankets to homeless people.
“She just had a heart for other people,” Uli says.
Letisha’s character was on full display during her five-kilometre Run for Water races, he says. Unlike her brother and father, she had no competitive streak and did not strive for a record time. She would instead stay with her friends and enjoy the moment surrounded by people she cared about.
The Reimers still talk to Letisha. They do the same things she loved: hikes, bike rides and making silly jokes.
On some of the more painful days, the Reimers sit together and rewatch the video montage put together for her funeral: pictures and video of the “energetic, fun-loving, compassionate” girl dancing, running and goofing off.
Team Letisha has already swollen to nearly 150 members.
“People joining and saying, ‘I can’t run but I’ll be there, I’ll participate, I’ll walk with friends and family.’ It’s just been amazing, the number of people that are coming together,” Uli says.
All the money raised by this year’s event will be in Letisha’s name.
But Peters says he has already had to re-adjust the fundraising projections, as the overwhelming response grows.
What was supposed to be one well, with a $100,000 budget, could become three wells.
One of the wells, providing a 5,000-person community with clean water, will also be accompanied by a four-room school with a playground, latrines and teacher training.
A donor has also reached out, offering to fly the four Reimers to Ethiopia in August to attend the inauguration of the well and the school.
Peters says he has been amazed by the Reimer family’s strength following their heartbreaking loss.
“There’s this depth that you guys have,” he says, facing Uli. “It blows me away. It says yes, we are holding on to the pain and hurt, we’re never going to forget that. And we’re choosing to do good in the world with this. It’s amazing.”
Uli admits the pain has been more than he and his family can handle at times but says moving forward is the only way.
“I don’t think she would want us not to do it,” he says. “She would get mad if we wouldn’t do this.”
He says he’s excited to go to Ethiopia, to see firsthand the effect his daughter continues to have on the world.
The Reimers will no doubt find more smiles brought into the world by Letisha.
Visit runforwater.ca to donate to Letisha’s Well or for more information on the annual run.