Running for victims

An identical pair of sneakers was the catalyst that forged a strong friendship in the midst of a heinous crime for Ottawa County residents Natalie Kik-Brown and Joan Grillo.
Kelle Lynn
Apr 17, 2013

 

As a result, victims of crimes have been supported with their crime-related expenses.

Three years ago, Kik-Brown and Grillo formed Katty Shack, a 5k and 1-mile run in Grand Haven to honor the victims of a quadruple murder in Wright Township in September 2008.

The victims included Kik-Brown’s daughter, Katherine Brown, 18. Also killed were Sharmaine Zimmer, 53; Jeremy Zimmer, 20; and Tyler Zimmer, 17.

The benefit run is held in conjunction with National Crime Victims Rights Week. It also raises money for the Jenison-based Crime Victim Foundation.

Since its inception, Katty Shack has raised $28,000 for the foundation.

This year's run is Saturday, April 20. It will begin at Mary A. White Elementary School at 9 a.m. and end at St. John's Lutheran Church.

During the two-week trial for the man who killed Kik-Brown's daughter and the Zimmers, Grillo — the victim rights coordinator for Ottawa County — noticed Kik-Brown putting on sneakers during breaks and taking long walks. Grillo had identical sneakers, and they eventually talked about running.

From there, the Katty Shack idea was born.

Troy Brake was eventually convicted on four counts of first-degree murder and felony firearms charges in 2009. He was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without parole. 

Katty Shack was Katherine Brown's nickname from her cross country teammates at Coopersville High School.

“We had to do something positive to honor their memory,” Kik-Brown said.

Kik-Brown has been a marathon runner since 1998. She has run in more than 50 marathons in 26 states, as well as Brazil, Germany and Antarctica.

Katherine Brown started running cross country in the eighth grade. Every now and then, mother and daughter would run together and participate in a few races.

Her daughter's murder wasn’t Kik-Brown’s first time as a crime victim. She lost her husband in a car crash in June 2006.

“Natalie is very resilient," Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald Frantz said. “The first time I met her, she had just lost her husband due to a negligent homicide. Then I turn around and two years later she loses her daughter in this horrible tragedy.

"I wondered at the time how much a person can take," he continued. "But she turned it around into a positive so she could start helping other victims of crime by starting Katty Shack.”

The Crime Victim Foundation helps victims of crimes with expenses not covered by restitution, up to $500.

“Someone might need gas money or hotel lodging for a trial, and that would be considered,” Grillo said. “The foundation is a last resort for victims when all other means of support have been exhausted. The victim might need new locks, a new door or a window replaced. This is for someone that can’t financially afford anything extra in their bills that month."

Grillo said their goal is to generate more money in the fund so the cap can be raised.

This year's Katty Shack run also honors the late William Van Regenmorter, a state senator from Ottawa County who authored Michigan’s crime victims rights amendments. Van Regenmorter, who died in June 2012 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease, started the Crime Victim Foundation in 1992 when he realized there wasn’t enough funding or resources available to help every victim in every case.

Van Regenmorter attended previous Katty Shack events and thanked participants for supporting the foundation.

“There will be a void this year without him,” Grillo said.

For more details on the race and how to register, CLICK HERE.  

 

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