Scholarship established in memory of Lake Tahoe mother and avid runner
After battling cancer for 18 years, a Meyers resident and avid runner has left behind a legacy to help young athletes.
Valerie N. Smith, 51, passed away on March 21 — but not before requesting that a scholarship be set up in her name to support local South Shore high school students who pursue distance running to enrich their lives.
The Valerie N. Smith Scholarship will be available next year for high school seniors to apply for through the Douglas County Community Foundation.
“Running was very important for her,” said her husband Doug. “She loved going on trails out here with her buddies, with me, the family and the dog.”
In fact, she continued running through all of her treatments over the years.
“When she was first diagnosed back in late ‘99, three surgeries later, a year of chemo, a year of radiation, she was totally bald, and she still loved running. She had a PICC line in for her chemo, but she would continue running. She ran the Kokanee 5k up here. She won her age group,” said Doug.
“She was 34 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage IIIC ovarian cancer. She vowed early on to beat it so that she could raise our kids who were 8 and 5 at the time and get them through school. And she did that.”
In 2002, Valerie carried the torch for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“She was so strong,” said Doug. “She continued to work full time as an accountant through this whole ordeal.”
But they couldn’t have done it without the support of the community.
“The whole Tahoe community pitched in. We were so fortunate. They helped with the kids. They even helped taking her down to Stanford for chemo,” recalled Doug.
Valerie is survived by her two daughters Kelsey and Kira, who both share their mother’s love of running.
“She passed her genes onto our kids. Our oldest daughter Kelsey was probably the most decorated athlete at South Tahoe High. She went on to run at UCLA with a scholarship,” added Doug.
Valerie’s memorial service was held on June 24 at Sierra Community Church. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that contributions be made to the Valerie N. Smith Scholarship through the Douglas County Community Foundation. Checks can be mailed in to P.O. Box 1968, Zephyr Cove, NV, 89448.
“She was an inspiration to us all,” said Doug.