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School team races in honour of classmate seriously injured in hit and run

St. Thomas Aquinas student Grace Haines was struck while going for a jog

St. Thomas Aquinas Grade 12 student Grace Haines was jogging alone when she was struck by a driver in a devastating hit-and-run incident in January, but her classmates and teachers want her to know that they will always be by her side.

Fifty members of the STA community – students and staff members alike – have signed up for the STA With Grace running team that will take part in the virtual Vancouver Sun Run later this month. They’re doing it simply to spread love and show their classmate, teammate, pupil and friend that they will always support her as she battles back from the life-threatening injuries she suffered in the crash.

“Because Grace went for a run and had an accident, it would be nice if we could say ‘you are not alone. We are here with you,’” said Tony Domina, the teacher and cross-country running coach who started the team.

Domina vividly remembers the day that the news of Grace’s accident spread through the school.    

“It was very emotional for all of us,” he said. “We gathered and we prayed for Grace like a community and a family. And then I came home and I was mad, because when I knew what happened I was just frustrated. I said, ‘Wow, how can something like that happen to her?’”

His anger, however, was replaced with something much more powerful when he heard Grace’s father Chris Haines calling for love and forgiveness in media interviews. Haines said he had only sympathy, not anger, for the driver that struck his daughter, and he didn't need any money for his daughter's care (although he did suggest people donate to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation if they were so moved, crediting the hospital staff with saving his daughter's life). All he wanted from the public for his daughter was "positive thoughts."

“That just struck me,” said Domina. “‘Love will heal Grace.’ That just transformed my perspective, because I was so mad. When I heard Grace’s dad, I [realized] we can do small things to encourage Grace to recover.”

He soon created the STA With Grace running team, and the response from the school delighted him, although it did not surprise him.

“It’s a really high number of people on the team,” he said, adding that several other teachers and staff members have been instrumental in getting the team up and running. “I’m so excited and I have to say I’m not surprised. Everything you do at STA to support community, people just join. It’s the spirit of STA – nothing new, nothing surprising. The community is an amazing place to be.”

Team members will take part in the Sun Run, being held remotely and virtually this year due to COVID-19 concerns, on either April 20, 22, 27 or 29.

Two weeks ago the North Shore News reported that Grace, who had surgery to correct a brain bleed, had made a weekend visit home from hospital. She still has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but she’s made remarkable progress since the collision left her in a coma.

Seeing Grace getting back on her feet brought strength and joy to everyone in the STA community, said Domina, who taught Grace math and coached her on the school’s cross-country running team.

“It’s a hope builder,” he said. “We always have a reason to be mad or sad, but seeing Grace going home, it just lifted our spirits. We feel like yes, things can be tough, but this gives us more reasons and motivation to keep going. It’s very inspiring.”

And while they’re running for Grace, they’re looking forward to the day they can all run with her again, said Domina.

“We cannot wait to see Grace back.”