It is a somber anniversary.
One year ago today, 17-year old Chelsea King left Poway High School and drove to the Rancho Bernardo-Glassman Recreation Center. She parked her car and hit the trails for a jog. She never returned home.
"She was a purist when it came to running," said Kelly King, Chelsea's mother. "For Chelsea, running was essential to her well-being as it was to breathe."
Chelsea King's body was found Mar. 2 after an extensive search around Lake Hodges. Registered sex offender John Gardner was later sentence to life in prison for her death and the murder of 14-year-old Amber Dubois.
Most people never knew Chelsea, yet her death seemed to captivate the hearts and minds of so many. Leading up to the anniversary of their daughter's death, Kelly and Brent King reflected on the past year.
"It's surreal. It's hard to believe that our daughter is going to be gone that long already," Brent King said. "And it's hard to understand that our relationship has changed that much with our daughter in that period of time."
"The communication and her presence has never been stronger," Kelly King said. "It's not the way I would like it to be, but I certainly acknowledge and am grateful for what I have now in that respect. She’s just started. She’s just begun what she’s meant to be doing."
In the year that has passed, Chelsea's parents have been determined to reform sex offender laws. Chelsea's Law was established last September. It asserts that any person convicted of certain sexual offenses against a child will receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The parents remain determined to apply pressure and hold lawmakers accountable.
"We did a lot of work and we accomplished a pretty wonderful thing, but if it’s not applied the way we intended It to be applied, why go through all that trouble, so we’re not going away," Kelly King said. "We’re here to make sure things stick."
The Kings, who now live in Illinois, devote most of their time and energy to the Chelsea's Light Foundation. On Mar. 5, the foundation will hold it's first official fundraiser, "Finish Chelsea's Run," at Balboa Park. Money raised will fund local scholarships.
"This run gives us an opportunity to share not only Chelsea’s energy and her passion for running," Kelly King said, "but also, to let them know in one of many ways, how much we care for the community and how grateful we are."
Said Brent King: "The intensity of support that we’ve received and continue to receive is measured by the intensity of our loss. And you can’t express it. It’s so overwhelming sometimes that you just want to hug everybody."
On Friday morning, the Kings released the following statement on Facebook:
"Today, just as we have tried this entire year and will continue to over the course of our lives, we focus on how our joy filled daughter chose to live her life -- with a zest and passion and willingness to make others smile, and a desire to change the world. Our Angel Forever. We love you Chelsea!"