With a clear blue sky hanging overhead, hundreds of athletic gear-clad joggers stood around the finish line, catching their breath while excitedly chatting amongst themselves. In such an upbeat atmosphere, it was hard to believe these participants just finished running about three miles to honor Paul DeWolf, the 25-year-old University medical student who was killed in his bedroom last summer.
This weekend, many of DeWolf’s family, friends and classmates gathered in Ann Arbor to celebrate his life through a tree dedication in front of the University Medical School courtyard and a 5K run in the Nichols Arboretum.
In July of 2013, DeWolf, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, was found dead in a bedroom in the Phi Rho Sigma fraternity house from a gunshot wound to his neck. An investigation concluded the murder was the result of a botched burglary by three men. DeWolf would have graduated this month.
About 400 people took part in the Paul DeWolf Memorial Hero Run Sunday afternoon, an event originally planned for 100 participants.
Three hundred registered participants wore bibs and radio chips to record their time, and a finish line was stationed in the M30 lot of the Arb with a professional race timing company at the end.
Cody Schultz, a medical school student and key organizer for the Paul DeWolf Memorial Hero Run, lived in the same fraternity house as Paul, though he was out of the country at the time of his murder. He thought Paul would appreciate the competitive atmosphere of a race because of his ambitious personality.
Schultz said they named the race a “hero run” as a testament to Paul’s selfless, supportive nature. Schultz hoped participants would not dwell on the tragedy but celebrate his life and enjoy each other’s company.
“The people who murdered Paul made some decisions that were selfish and cruel,” he said. “The theme of the race was to act in the opposite of that, to live your life in a more selfless way, honoring the heroes rather than the villains.”
All proceeds and donations went to the Veteran’s Association Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Returning Service Members Fund to honor DeWolf’s work with the Ann Arbor VA Health System during his time in the city.
Earlier in the day, DeWolf’s family held a ceremony to plant a Red Oak tree in the courtyard of the medical school. Speakers included DeWolfe’s aunt and uncle, his parents, Kris and Thom, and sister Rebekah.
Kavita Vinekar, a classmate and friend of DeWolf’s who recently graduated from the University’s medical school, said she was pleased by the way the entire community came together to remember Paul’s legacy with an optimistic spirit. One of the organizers of the 5K, she hopes to see memorial events for DeWolf continue and grow in the future so that his legacy lives on.
“This gave us an opportunity not only to come together as a community that’s been grieving recently, but also a community that seeks to celebrate someone who was truly a special person,” Vinekar said.