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The gift: Tanner Jeans' legacy is a safer Snoqualmie, says Foundation founder Laurie Gibbs
By day, Laurie Gibbs deals with worst-case scenarios. Her analytical mind is constantly turning over prevention methods and damage mitigation for prison lockdowns, school break-ins, and worse.
For the rest of her day— she’s one of those people who seems to have more hours to get things done than the rest of us—her heart takes over. She organizes events for the Tanner Jeans Memorial Foundation that she started.
She goes to her daughters’ (Lainie, 14, and Lindie, 12) school concerts and soccer games, and gets herself and husband, Max, of almost 20 years, involved in their community.
Some weeks, that involvement means speaking her mind at PTSA, school board, Chamber or Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation meetings, others it’s singing with a loosely-organized rock band made of her friends and neighbors on Snoqualmie Ridge. This week, it means finalizing the plans for the ninth annual Tanner Jeans Memorial Bike Safety Rodeo, June 9 at Snoqualmie Community Park, 35016 SE Ridge St.
“I call myself, a processor and a planner, and I work in risk management,” she said, but “the Foundation work is a gift from the heart.”
The foundation itself is a gift, too, from Gibbs, and the many community members who came together after 7 year-old Tanner Jeans was killed in a bicycle accident June 23, 2003. Looking at nothing, Gibbs recalled, in a low voice, the accident, and how, with the then-small community gathered at the scene, someone suggested raising funds for a memorial park bench.
She volunteered to organize the effort, wanting to do something positive, to keep busy.
“I can either do nothing, or I can do something,” she explained.
Gibbs’ dual nature helps her, along with the five-member foundation board, the Snoqualmie Police Department and an army of volunteers, pull off the rodeo, one of the largest children’s safety events in the state, each year. While she worries that the rodeo might be a hard reminder to Tanner’s family, all she has to do is look at the results, she says.
“It’s become a family event. We’ve had anywhere from a high of 2,000 to a low of 1,200. I know from that event we’re doing the right thing.”
The rodeo has grown just like the foundation, quickly, and tremendously. Gibbs is not really sure how either got so big so fast, but knew she had to start the foundation when she’d received $15,000 in donations for Tanner’s memorial within two months.
Since then, the foundation has established three simple goals: Increasing safety awareness among area youth; Promoting healthy lifestyle via sports -- “Tanner really loved sports,” Gibbs said -- and promote education. Toward these goals, the foundation has raised thousands of dollars to put on the annual bike safety rodeo, offer elite-sports program scholarships to Valley athletes, donate to various educational programs in Snoqualmie Valley Schools, and, in one of its first acts, establish two full scholarships to the University of Washington for one boy and one girl from what would have been Tanner’s graduating class.
Gibbs will leave the Valley in August when she moves to Virginia, and she’s struggling with it. As a work-at-home consultant, she’s moved and travelled quite a bit, besides growing up on the East coast, and attending college in New York and grad school in South Carolina (yes, you can hear the drawl), but she said this move will be one of the hardest.
She leaves behind a community that she plans to stay involved in, although from a distance, and a foundation the she hopes will continue to flourish without her.
Tanner Jeans is, because of the foundation, still a part of the community. “To me, it’s like he’s constantly around,” Gibbs said. “Even for people who’ve just moved here… They know who he is, and that to me is extremely important.”
Read more about the Tanner Jeans Memorial Foundation's bike rodeo here.