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Woman who received liver donation from Kristen Burkholder will race in her memory Saturday

It's been more than 20 years since 12-year-old Kristin Burkholder died as a result of injuries suffered from a pedestrian-car accident while she was running along Canosia Road for track and field practice.

Nevertheless, on Saturday, Aug. 12, Kristin Burkholder's liver will participate in the annual 5K race held in her honor.

After Burkholder died from her injuries in April 1997, her family decided to donate her organs. Burkholder's liver recipient will participate in this year's race along with the Burkholder family.

"We've kept up with her on Facebook, but this will be the first time we've seen her in person since she was probably 3 or 4 years old," said Kristen's father, Kevin Burkholder. The girl was just a baby when she had the transplant so Kevin figured she is close to 21 years old now.

The 21st annual event is taking place Saturday morning as part of the Esko Fun Days festivities. People can choose to walk or run the 5K race that starts near the Esko football field and finishes on the Esko track.

Put on by the Esko Educational Foundation, the race serves many purposes: one, to help fund Burkholder's memorial scholarship and other scholarships for Esko High School seniors, second, to promote safety awareness for children and third, to help increases knowledge of the need for organ donations.

Although Kristin's dad, Kevin Burkholder, said a lot of people come to the walk/run for Esko pride, he is also proud that the annual race keeps the need for safety in people's minds.

"I think the awareness of the safety of the public really came to the forefront with Kristin's accident," Kevin told the Pine Journal last year, adding that U.S. Senator James Oberstar helped secure the funding that paid for the walking path from the school north along Canosia Road to the school's practice and playing fields.

Packet pick-up and race day registration starts at 7:45 a.m. Saturday at the Esko football field. Race-day registration is $25 as a individual and $60 per family. Runners can pick up a race form at the Esko Fitness Center, Eskomo Pizza Pies, Esko Self Service or online at esko.k12.mn.us or northlandrunner.com. Starting at 8:45 a.m., kids can race for free on the Esko track. The 5K race starts at 9 a.m. and is intended for all ages and abilities.

Other Esko Fun Days activities will kick off at dusk Friday with a free movie in the park, "Pete's Dragon," at the Esko Sport Complex.

Following the Kristen Burkholder 5K, the parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and end at the Esko Sports Complex, where there will be a variety of family-friendly activities all afternoon Saturday.

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