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Caledonia’s Riverbank Run Legacy Continues

Christopher Warren was the type of principal whose commitment to children and education was unquestionable. Whenever he saw a need at Caledonia Community Schools’ Kettle Lake Elementary, he worked to meet it.

Now, his family, students, and staff are rallying to continue the legacy of the beloved school leader by raising money for an eighth-mile asphalt track and fitness stations in his memory. They have already unofficially raised $30,000, and hope to raise $10,000 more by May 31. Installation at Kettle Lake could begin in June.

Warren died unexpectedly at age 59 while out for a walk.

During his 12 years at Kettle Lake, he raised $80,000 for projects and before that he raised money for Southeastern Elementary, in Hastings, where he also served as principal. Projects he made possible include new playground equipment, a climbing wall, inline skates, new library books, computers, and library improvements.

To raise funds, he merged his commitment for students with his passion for running by taking pledges for the Fifth/Third Riverbank Run. 

On Saturday, his family, friends, staff and students will participate in the race in his place. “We are walking and running in his honor,” said his wife, Patricia Warren. Warren’s children Jennifer and Joshua will run the 25K, and Justin will walk the 5K with Patricia.

Jennifer, who often ran at her father’s side, is running as a Road Warrior for the cause, and Joshua is running the race for the first time, literally wearing his father‘s shoes. Several other family members are also participating.

Walking the Talk

Warren, who carried a nail in his pocket as a reminder of his Christian faith, made his mark on the whole community, said his wife and fellow educators. If someone needed help, he made sure they got it.

“He loved the students,” said his wife. “He knew the kids needed playground equipment, supplies, and more…Chris had a very kind, giving, selfless heart.”

Superintendent Randy Rodriguez said when he first moved to the district Warren made it a priority to get to know him. They became close friends. “He showed up at my door to welcome me,” Rodriguez said. “He was just a phenomenal man.”

Kettle Lake Secretary Crystal Bellgraph said the school family is very grateful. “The kids will love having a track in his memory,” she said.

Donations may be sent to Kettle Lake Elementary School,  8451 Garbow Drive, Alto, MI, 49302. Contact 868-6113.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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