4th Annual 5K in honor of Vanessa Marcotte to be held virtually Saturday

BOSTON — The Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation’s fourth annual 5K will be held virtually Saturday, Jun. 20, with participants running or walking together live on a running app while social distancing.

The event is in honor of 27-year-old Marcotte, who was abducted and killed while jogging near her family home in Princeton in 2016. Marcotte, who had been living and working in New York City, would have turned 31 on Wednesday.

The suspect, who officials say was identified by DNA evidence, is awaiting trial for murder.

“We wish we could celebrate her birthday a very different way,” said Marcotte’s best friend, Ashley McNiff. “But we’re excited and happy that we're able to share her story with so many people and also do something that helps us turn our tragedy into something positive.”

McNiff and Marcotte’s cousin, Caroline Tocci, co-founded the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation and have raised an estimated $500,000 for programs and workshops that empower women and girls.

“Really, for her, being successful meant helping others and making an impact,” Tocci said. “And that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do with the foundation.”

Marcotte was a former tutor and a volunteer. She was committed to her community and especially youth.

On Saturday, using the Charge Running app, 5K participants will join an instructor with live music, giveaways and an opportunity to send “sweaty selfies” to one another.

By Tuesday night, about 700 people had registered from 28 states and four countries.

Proceeds from registration fees will go toward domestic violence prevention and relief programs, including Abby’s House – a Worcester-based shelter for women and children. The foundation will also expand its self-defense programs for women and girls, as well as workshops for boys and girls that challenge the gender stereotypes that lead to harassment and violence.

“Ultimately, our vision is that women live in a world where they live boldly and fearlessly. And we never want women to be afraid to run,” McNiff said. “We know the reality is, it’s not safe, and one in six women are assaulted in the United States. And I think that’s what we’re trying to address. We want to live in a world where women don’t need to worry about that.”

To register for the event, head to: www.runforvanessa.org.