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Be part of Oregon City Team Kyla at Shamrock Run in Portland

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When their 7-year-old daughter Kyla was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in June 2005, her parents, Bret and Brettie McCulloch, were devastated; she died seven weeks later.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Holding up their Kyla Cards at last year's Shamrock Run, are Kyla's mother, Brettie McCullough, sister, Kora McCullough, and father, Bret McCullough.“It tore us up so badly that we are still trying to recover. Word got out about Kyla, and her story seemed to gravitate toward others on a deeper level,” father Bret McCulloch said.

“Our family never understood why Kyla was leaving such a ripple and never realized others were seeing her as being so amazing. Kyla had that ‘it’ factor it was pretty amazing to watch and be a part of her life,” he said.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Participants in the Shamrock Run wear 'Kyla Cards,' emblazoned with words spelling out her name: Know Youre Loved Always.And that ripple spread out to encompass more than just Kyla’s family, classmates and friends in Oregon City, when Terry Ahlgrim started Team Kyla in 2010.

Jan. 31 deadline

Ahlgrim, who retired after teaching for 29 years in Oregon City schools, was involved with Kyla’s fifth-grade classmates, when they participated in a school jog-a-thon.

“I thought it would be nice to do something to honor and remember Kyla when her classmates were in the sixth grade,” Ahlgrim said.

She chose to put Team Kyla together to join in the Shamrock Run, which had been created by the mother of another young girl who had died of cancer at age 7.

“A few years ago, the Shamrock Run added a Super Team Status to any team that could recruit at least 75 adult members. That means that the Shamrock Run will donate an extra $5 per adult team member to the charity of their choice,” Ahlgrim said.

The McCullough family has established the Kyla McCullough Gift Fund to help support other families with children with cancer and the medical facilities that serve these families.

“This is our chosen charity, and we have reached Super Team Status the past three years. This is the senior year for Kyla’s classmates, and this will be Team Kyla’s grand finale year. We’d like this to be our biggest team yet to support Kyla’s family and the gift fund,” Ahlgrim said.

Ahlgrim and the McCulloch family are asking for runners to join Team Kyla by signing up at shamrockrunportland.com and choosing the family and friends team option.

“Our team number is 1650. Once [runners] end up on the Team 1650 roster, I will have access to their email address, and I will contact team members to figure out how to get their race packets to them. Team registration ends Jan. 31,” Ahlgrim said, adding that Shamrock Run Portland takes place on Sunday, March 13, at Waterfront Park.

Team takes off

“When we first started our team we really weren’t sure how it would be received. There are a lot of runners in Portland, however, the amount of runners in our circle is pretty low. It was a great feeling of surprise and gratitude to find so many willing to get out, in the early morning cold and rain, to run for Kyla,” Bret McCulloch said.

“Now several years later, we receive photos from people we don’t even know, excited to run with Kyla’s name on their back. It’s very rewarding and a bit prideful. We don’t have many moments with Kyla ... but the run has become one of them. To see her being represented by people we don’t even know is extremely meaningful,” he added.

Ahlgrim is captain of Team Kyla this year, and her main responsibilities are recruiting team members, working with the McCullough family to create the Kyla Cards that each team member wears during the Shamrock Run events and communicating with the team members.

“The most rewarding parts of participating in the run are seeing Kyla’s classmates in the event, hearing team members’ very positive stories about why they joined Team Kyla, and when other runners see my Kyla Card during the run, and ask me about Kyla, I get to tell her story,” Ahlgrim said.

Local support

“I started supporting Team Kyla after realizing that many of our running events do not give to a good cause. These events make a lot of money for very few people, and I love [that] the Shamrock Run allows teams to benefit for a great cause,” said Amy Ramage, owner of Fit for Excellence, who works as a personal and group trainer at Oregon City’s Fit Warehouse.

Several years ago, one of her clients gave her the Team Kyla information and Ramage then recruited other clients to be part of the Shamrock Run event.

“I also was blessed to attend Kyla’s auction last year to meet the mass amount of people who loved her and those who benefit from her charity. When I find out something has a good cause attached to it I very easily believe in it and want to support it even more,” Ramage said.

She added, “Not only is it super fun to have a goal event to train for, but I love Kyla’s story and what her charity has done, which makes it even more motivating to get people involved.”

Gift fund

For the McCullough family, “the most rewarding part of participating in the run is knowing we are helping others. We understand what the run represents and are happy to be a part of something benefiting Doernbecher Children’s Hospital,” Kyla’s father said.

Why should people sign up for Team Kyla?

“Because Kyla represents strength. Symbolically, runners rely on their mental and physical strength to finish their race. Kyla has always been strong, even when battling for her life. Her strength was something we witnessed, leaned on, learned from and still apply to our life daily,” McCullough said.

“After she left us, we were crushed and wondered how we would be able live on with such an enormous hole in our lives. We have always drawn strength from our two other daughters, Kora, now 14, and Bree, 11, who needed us and gave us a reason to get up and finish what Kyla had started,” he said.

So in 2006, the family founded the Kyla McCullough Gift Fund, and “the ripple Kyla started has only gotten bigger. KMGF has granted more than $240,000 to local families and organizations to help children who are battling cancer,” Bret McCullough said.

He noted that lots of people want to help children, but are hesitant to donate to the bigger organizations not knowing where their money will go.

“KMGF is a small grassroots organization [that] makes certain the money that is raised goes directly to helping local families and children living with cancer, all in Kyla’s name. The amount of gratitude we have for those who support KMGF is astronomical, and we do not take the support for granted,” McCullough said.

He further noted that KMGF will hold an annual fundraising dinner and auction on April 9 at the Red Lion Hotel at Jantzen Beach. Proceeds will support local children living with cancer.

Run for Kyla

What: Register online by Jan. 31 for the March 13 Shamrock Run Portland. How: Click the “Register Now” button at shamrockrunportland.com, choose the team option, and then enter Team Registration Number 1650 for Team Kyla as part of your registration information.

Kyla McCullough Gift Fund: Visit kmgf.org to see photos of Kyla, learn more about her story and see photos from previous Team Kyla events. Click on the donate button to find out how to donate to this nonprofit fund that supports local families and children living with cancer.