June 25 is a special day for those in the running community and in the Perham community as a whole. It is the birthday of Perham’s Gabriele Anderson-Grunewald, who passed away on June 11, 2019 after a decade-long battle with cancer.

Last year, her birthday was proclaimed as Gabe Day throughout the state of Minnesota. Last year, Perham came together and celebrated Gabe Day as part of the first-ever Perham Summer Block Party and hosted a 1.405 mile run/walk in honor of Grunewald and her favorite number of 1,405.

June 25 would have been Grunewald’s 34th birthday. The COVID-19 Pandemic has prevented many events from happening as they have in the past, but this year the Brave Like Gabe Foundation announced a virtual run for June, with the emphasis being on her birthday of June 25.

Gabe Grunewald
Gabe Grunewald

Participants who register for the June event will be guaranteed entry into the virtual race in September. The Brave Like Gabe Foundation will have a Strava challenge, which are different types of challenges during the virtual event, leaderboards for the event and door prizes will be drawn at random, according to the Brave Like Gabe Foundation’s events webpage.

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Perham Cross Country coach Jeff Morris helped organize last year’s Gabe Day event and is encouraging people to sign up for the virtual event in honor of Grunewald in 2020.

“It’s really cool and something that the Brave Like Gabe Foundation with Brooks Running and her husband put on. It’s the third annual. Gabe started it the year before she died on her birthday,” Morris said. “It’s something that has been neat and something we obviously want to encourage our town, our community and our program to be a part of. Hopefully, I’m going to get a lot of my kids to participate.”

Morris has talked with several former runners and coaches in the area that have said they plan on participating in the event. The virtual 5K can be run during any time of the month of June, but they are strongly encouraging people to participate on June 25.

“It’s a real cool opportunity for people who run to get involved and give to a good cause,” Morris said of the event.

Morris said Grunewald’s impact on the community of Perham and the running community is huge. He said he has heard many stories about the ripple effect of her life.

“Those ripples are still touching so many people’s lives. My wife, Kay, always says you throw your stone in the pond and you are always going to have ripples and you never know how the ripples of life will affect people,” Morris said. “This is just something for our community to see and, especially the kids that I coach, to see the impact you can have when you live a life with purpose and meaning, which is what Gabe did.”

Morris said he expects a nice local turnout for the virtual event. Morris will be participating in his first virtual 5K.

“I just think it will be fun. It will be fun for our cross country kids, who are going on captain’s practice now to have something on Thursday to look forward to,” Morris said. “Even if they don’t race as hard as they can, get out there and do something and give to cancer research. It’s going to give specifically to research on the cancer that she died from.”

Morris said last year’s event was a memorial event for Grunewald, but said this year’s virtual 5K is an opportunity to get behind something Grunewald started.

“It’s incredible. I have a former teammate from college, who I’m going to pass this along to, who is undergoing cancer treatment for a cancer that is similar to Gabe’s. She was a runner in college and a professional runner for Canada. A lot of people can participate in this and use it to encourage people that they know are going through cancer,” Morris said. “With Relay for Life and everything coming up, it’s a great way for people to get behind something that is bigger than ourselves, especially with everything the world is going through right now to have something that unites us.”

For more information and to register for the event, visit https://bravelikegabe.org/events/blg5k2020