More than 3,000 motorcyclists revved up for Sunday’s eighth annual Emily’s Parade along U.S. 285, remembering a young woman whose death has led to safer schools.
The motorcycle ride starts at Columbine High School in Littleton and ends at Platte Canyon High in Bailey.
On Sept. 27, 2006, a gunman entered Platte Canyon High and fatally shot Emily Keyes after holding her and several other students hostage. Formed in 2009, the I Love U Guys Foundation was named after Emily’s last text-message to her parents; Emily’s Parade is the major fund-raiser for the foundation, which creates and promotes safety programs for schools during emergencies.
Immediately after Emily’s death, Columbine High principal Frank DeAngelis reached out to Platte Canyon High and to Emily’s father, John-Michael Keyes.
“These two tragedies brought two communities together,” DeAngelis said Sunday. “I know (the victims) are looking down on us today.”
On April 20, 1999, 12 students and a teacher were shot to death at Columbine High School.
“I still have people come up to me and say that they knew Emily,” Keyes said. “She waited tables at the Cutthroat Café, and people will say to me, ‘Emily served me lunch once.’ I learn every day how big her world was.”
After a breakfast and ceremony, more than 3,000 riders revved up and left Columbine High and made their way on U.S. 285 toward Bailey.
Dozens of supporters with flags and signs lined U.S. 285 to wave and cheer. Motorcyclists returned the favor by honking their horns and revving their engines.
“We come out every year,” said Dwight Mitts, who was standing near Kings Valley Drive and U.S. 285. Dwight was with his wife, Linda.
“We’re looking out for our son, Cody,” Linda said. “Every year, I think of what Emily would say if she was still with us today. If she could only see how many people come out for her every year.”
The ride ended at Platte Canyon High, where riders gathered on the athletic field to eat, relax and listen to live music after the 45-mile trip.
“My friends have been participating in this for years,” said rider Linda Lynch. “It’s a great cause, and I finally was able to join this year.”
The I Love U Guys Foundation teaches the Standard Response Protocol to school districts so students and staff can safely respond to emergencies. The protocol is now in more than 5,000 schools nationwide.
“Emily would laugh like hell if she saw all of this today,” Keyes said with a smile. “She always did love a parade.”
For more information on the I Love U Guys Foundation, visit www.iloveuguys.org.
To see a video of Emily’s Parade, visit www.columbinecourier.com or “like” us on Facebook.