Right to Hike sets two events

LAWRENCEVILLE - The nonprofit Right to Hike group established to honor the memory of slain hiker and Gwinnettian Meredith Hope Emerson announced this week that two events are being planned to continue their efforts.

The first event to honor Emerson will be a repeat of what the Gwinnett Convention and Visitor's Bureau named the 2008 event of the year - Ella's Run, a 5K race and one-mile fun run named for Emerson's dog.

"Last year, Ella's Run had over 600 participants and it was an unbelievable display of community support," said Julia Karrenbauer, president of Right to Hike and Emerson's friend. "Everyone there was touched by Meredith and her story and they brought their families and their dogs. We could feel Meredith's smile at every moment of the event."

The second annual Ella's 5K and Fun Run will commence Oct. 10 at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, where a trail at last year's event was named in Emerson's honor. Dogs are welcome again and this year's course will be different from last years. Early registration is now available at the group's Web site - www.righttohikeinc.com.

The 5K costs $25 and the fun run costs $15. Children aged 16 and younger can participate for only $10. Everybody who participates gets a T-shirt and dogs will receive a special medal.

For its second event, Right to Hike will head to where Emerson went missing - Union County. There local officials have planned an entire day to devote to Emerson. It will start with a morning remembrance walk at Meek's Park in Blairsville and will conclude with an afternoon festival, complete with games, live entertainment, arts, crafts and cuisine. Softball and cornhole tournaments will take place as well.

A Union County official said the local community was ecstatic to be involved in an event that would pay tribute to Emerson's memory.

"It's an honor that Right to Hike has chosen to bring such an outstanding event to Union County to celebrate the life of Meredith Emerson," Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris said. "While her life was short, her accomplishments were many and the positive impact she made on this community and all those who assisted in her search, who never knew her, will be felt for years to come."

The walk and festival at Meek's Park will start on Aug. 15 at 10 a.m. A news release announcing the event said the one-hour walk "will provide you with some of the most breathtaking sites in North Georgia."

All funds raised from the Aug. 15 event will benefit Right to Hike, the Blairsville Chapter of the Red Cross, Blairsville's Humane Society and the Union County Search and Rescue team.

Emerson was killed after being abducted by Gary Michael Hilton on New Year's Day while hiking with her dog Ella on a Blood Mountain trail in Union County in January 2008. Hilton is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.