Originally a refugee from Laos who was brought to the U.S. with the help of World Vision, 14-year Snoqualmie resident Keomany Riley is raising money to give back through the 2017 Alaska Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon fundraiser on June 18, a marathon series that allows runners to raise money for their favorite charities.
Riley has been raising money for World Vision, which has already totaled more than $300,000 in donations from the marathon and lists Riley as one of the top donors with a total of $15,075. All of the money raised by World Vision will go to help providing clean water to communities in Africa.
Riley began raising money for the marathon after learning about her family’s connection with World Vision and the work that they do. In 2016, she started working on her goal to stay in shape by running and a friend suggested she join the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon.
She began running to prepare for the marathon, but after speaking with Bonnie Olson, an old family friend, Riley was motivated to raise as much money for World Vision as she could.
“She told me it’s good that you are doing this because World Vision is the one who brought your family here,” Riley said. “I’m so grateful for World Vision, I went 100 percent in asking people (to donate) rather than just family.”
Riley’s family left Laos after the Vietnam War in 1975 and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for five years. At the camp, refugees could apply to World Vision to be sponsored by organizations or families from the U.S. and be brought over.
It was through that program that Riley’s family came to Washington state in 1979.
Once in Washington, her family moved to Centralia and joined the Bethel Church in Chehalis, a church known for its support of sponsored refugee families. Olson, the co-chair of the church’s refugee program at the time, grew to know the family through the church and supported them for many years as Riley made her way through high school.
“We did help their family a lot,” Olson, who now lives in Laguna Niguel, Calif., said. “From providing firewood, to helping them get situated in schools. Often times the school would call me for questions. We helped with their drivers licenses and we actually co-signed for a car for them. When Keomany and Naly, her sister, graduated high school, we threw a party.”
Because her family received help from World Vision to get them out of the refugee camp, Riley felt motivated to do her best to raise money so others could receive help as well. Instead of just asking her family she took her fundraising efforts to the people she met in her daily life at schools, banks, and local businesses.
Through her fundraising efforts, Riley was the first person raising money for World Vision to collect $10,000 in donations for the event. Her original goal was $2,000, but the generosity of the people in the Valley has helped her blow past her goal by and additional $13,000.
“I’m in awe, when you show kindness to people, you never know when you are going to reap that kindness. I know this is my reaping, because I just try to be nice,” she said.
Keomany readjusted her goal to $15,000 for the marathon and has already surpassed the goal by raising $15,075.
She is also working on training for the marathon itself.
The 2017 Alaska Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon is on June 18 at Alaska Airline Field at Husky Stadium in Seattle.