On the 12th anniversary of the death of Poway teenager Chelsea King, her father announced the foundation that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide scholarships in her name will end operations.
“It is truly amazing what the power of an engaged community can accomplish,” wrote Brent King on the Chelsea’s Light Foundation Facebook page. "Today is the right day to announce that Chelsea’s Light Foundation has completed its mission and [we] are in the process of winding up our operations."
Chelsea was a 17-year-old senior at Poway High School, when she went on an afterschool run on Feb. 25, 2010. Five days, later her body was discovered in a shallow grave off a running trail west of the Rancho Bernardo Recreation Center.
“San Diego truly embraced Chelsea and embraced our family in a way that — it’s such a beautiful thing,” Brent told NBC 7 on Thursday.
The King family eventually moved to Illinois but worked tirelessly in the face of tragedy to effect change.
Just seven months after Chelsea's death, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was then governor of California, came to San Diego to sign Chelsea’s Law, which punishes sexual predators who target children.
"Today is the day to celebrate your voice and your passion," Kelly King said on Sept. 10, 2010.
"Every time Kelly would speak, the world would stop, and everyone would focus, and everyone would listen," Nathan Fletcher, who is now the chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said this week.
Chelsea’s Law was authored by Fletcher, who at that time was a state assemblyman.
“What I want to remember and what I want to focus on is that strength and that spirit that motivated a community and brought us together to do good, and Chelsea’s Law has saved lives,” Fletcher.
The King family also worked hard to provide hope and encouragement for young people and soon established the Chelsea’s Light Foundation.
The foundation raised more than $1 million, according to Brent. Money was raised through events like the popular Finish Chelsea’s Run, which was held annually in Balboa Park until several years ago.
The money raised was used to create the Sunflower Scholarship Fund. As part of the application process, students were asked to write essays on questions like, “If you were a superhero, what would be your superpower be and how would you use it to effect change?”
“It’s been such a process of growth and pain and joy, and every emotion you can imagine wrapped into the past 12 years,” Brent said.
This week, Brent reflected on the foundation he helped to create and why it was time to wind down operations.
“It’s been 12 years of a lot of hard work and a lot of energy poured in, and it just feels like now is the right time to go and ahead and let the operation run itself down and stop driving Chelsea’s Light," Brent said. "It’s just time."
Meanwhile, there is now a memorial on the running trail a short distance from where Chelsea's body was found. On the anniversary of her death, local residents stopped by to pay their respects.
“It’s a trail we walk on all the time, and we just feel sad for her and her family," Sally Muhlbaier said. "I mean, 12 years now and it’s like yesterday."
“I can’t thank every person enough, whether it was somebody that volunteered, somebody that came out to a race, somebody that read it in the paper and said, ‘Wow, look at this story,’ " Brent said. "San Diego is such a beautiful community, and it is by far, America’s best city."