More than 150 students, alumni and community members woke up early Sunday morning to participate in “Cully’s Run” to honor Katy “Cully” Cullinan ’08, a rugby player who took her own life this past August after battling an eating disorder for several years. The proceeds from the event, which was organized by the Dartmouth women’s rugby team, will benefit the National Eating Disorders Association.
Rugby coach Debra Archambault ’85, who helped to plan the run, said she wanted to hold an event that was personal for the team, but included the entire Dartmouth community.
“When you get an idea such as this that really takes hold, it’s such a beautiful thing when you can see it all come together,” she said, adding that team members hope the run will become an annual event.
Carolina Cima ’10, Cullinan’s friend and teammate who organized the event with Marisa Taney ’09, said she will never meet anyone quite like Cullinan again.
“She was such a positive force in every possible scenario,” she said. “I was talking to someone about what Katy would think of what we’re doing in her memory, and we both decided she would definitely tell us we’re overachieving and being crazy because that’s just how she was.”
Both organizers stressed that the event is a celebration of Cullinan’s life, rather than her struggle.
“The way we think about it is that there was this incredible person that we were lucky enough to get to know and build a relationship with,” Taney said. “This event is a way of celebrating that and celebrating the legacy she left behind.”
The five-kilometer run began next to the rugby field house and continued around the fields and through the surrounding forested area.
The team raised $5,200 from the event, and its fundraising web site will remain open for several days to allow people to make additional donations.
Cima said she is excited by how much money the team raised, but that the event is primarily intended to increase awareness about eating disorders and to celebrate Cullinan’s life.
“So many girls are affected by eating disorders, so we really hope the event serves as a venue that opens up the campus for discussion about the issue,” she said.
The event included an awards ceremony and speeches by Cullinan’s father, a teammate and a representative from Cullinan’s sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma.
The speeches, which left few dry eyes among those gathered in the rugby clubhouse, both celebrated Cullinan’s life through anecdotes and addressed the seriousness of eating disorders and the importance of reaching out to others who might be struggling.
Ilda Bajraktari ’11, a rugby team member, described Cullinan as “loyal, kind and always willing to push boundaries.”
Kevin Cullinan, Katy Cullinan’s father, stressed that eating disorders are more likely to go untreated when there is ignorance and silence.
“It’s an important issue for a lot of families who don’t yet know that it’s going to become a part of their lives,” he said.
He discussed his daughter’s determination, resilience and compassion for others.
“For her, if something or someone knocked you down, you had to get back up,” he said. “It was that simple.”
He also talked about his daughter’s ability to brighten other people’s lives, saying she would leave silly drawings in people’s notebooks to cheer them up.
“In a world that’s often less than beautiful, it was her way of sprinkling a little bit of pixie dust,” he said, fighting back tears.
The rugby team’s first annual Cully Memorial Award was given to Michelle Dunn ’09.Archambault and Cullinan’s parents intend the award to be presented to the player who embodies the characteristics of Cullinan most admired by others: indomitable spirit, passionate support and irreverent humor.
The coach also presented an award to Cullinan’s parents that was signed by all the players.
Morgan Soutter ’97, who won the race, came to Dartmouth this weekend with his wife, former Dartmouth rugby player, Lynn Campbell Soutter ’97, for the women’s rugby team’s 30th Anniversary Weekend.
The team decided to hold the run this weekend to include its alumni base, Archambault said.
“I wanted to show some of our alumni how strong the girls on the team are and what this current team is all about,” she said.
About 20 alumni signed up to run in the event, and many helped organize the run, Cima and Taney said.