On a rainy Saturday morning, students and families raced around the Binghamton University campus to honor and celebrate the life of Sophie de Tournemire, a rising sophomore who took her own life last July.
BU’s Triathlon Club hosted Sophie’s Run, a 5K trek around campus to commemorate de Tournemire, a past club member, and to raise awareness for mental health. The event created a memorial fund that collected donations, including the race’s registration fees, for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national organization that funds research and advocates for public policies in mental health and suicide prevention. The foundation also runs educational programs and supports survivors of suicide loss.
Inspired by de Tournemire’s passion for the Triathlon Club, the team decided to host a marathon race for her memorial.
Julia Gabalski, secretary of the Triathlon Club and a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, organized the race with the goal of giving those who knew de Tournemire a chance to remember her by doing something she was passionate about. Before the race began, Gabalski read a speech she wrote.
“Today is the day that we honor Sophie and that we take a step forward, bringing suicide and mental health out of the darkness where it so often hides,” Gabalski said.
Initially, the club aimed to raise $1,000, but with the help of 42 individual donations, Sophie’s Run ultimately raised $2,687 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Each donator had the option of including a public message, many of which were a few sentences focused on celebrating de Tournemire’s life. Al Vos, collegiate professor of Hinman College who had de Tournemire as a student in his human development course, wrote a message in honor of de Tournemire.
“In loving memory of Sophie, who was a gift to all of us who knew her,” Vos wrote. “In hope that all who struggle will find peace and strength for their journey.”
Diana Zebinato, co-president of Triathlon Club and a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said the Triathlon team had never experienced losing someone to suicide, and collectively decided the race would be a great way to mourn and remember together.
“We all decided to organize Sophie’s Run because we wanted to have a memorial for her and to raise awareness [for] suicide because it is something that happens and people don’t really talk about it,” Zebinato said. “I was really passionate about [Sophie’s Run] because it was a way to grieve for her and be able to move past it. It was important for us as a team to do this, because she means a lot to all of us and we wanted to be able to honor her.”
Lindsey Hodges, co-president of the BU Rowing Team and a senior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, also participated in the race, along with the rest of the the Rowing Team’s varsity squad.
“Sophie’s older brother, Greg, was on the Rowing Club for a few years,” Hodges said. “We wanted to run to honor Sophie and show our support for Greg and the whole de Tournemire family.”
As this was the first race hosted by current members of the Triathlon Club, Gabalski said organizing the event was one of the hardest things she’d ever done.
“Self-doubt was accompanied by the pain of the loss of such a bright soul, making it hard to rise up to the challenge of simply getting out of bed each day and saying ‘I can do this,’ but I would do it all again in a heartbeat,” Gabalski said. “[At first], I didn’t believe we were going to be able to pull it off, but we most certainly did.”