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Event keeps hikers memory alive
Memorial event for Meredith Emerson to raise funds for mountain charities
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Remembering Meredith

Union County Remembrance Walk & Festival

When: Aug. 15; 10 a.m. walk, 11 a.m. festival

Where: Meek’s Park, Blairsville

Right to Hike Inc. is still seeking vendors and participants for a softball tournament. Sign up online at


Ella’s 5K and Fun Run

When: Oct. 10

Where: Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, Buford

Price: 5K run $25; Fun Run $15, children 16 and younger $10

To register: Sign up at www.right


Friends continue to remember Meredith Hope Emerson, and an upcoming memorial is scheduled in one of her favorite places.

Union County is holding a first annual family walk in honor of the slain Buford woman. Donations will benefit Blairsville area foundations.

Emerson, 24, was reported missing on New Year’s Day 2008 after she hiked Appalachian Trail and the Freeman Trail through the Blood Mountains Wilderness in Union County. After a lengthy search, she later was found dead in Dawson County.

Gary Michael Hilton is serving a life sentence in the Jan. 4, 2008, slaying.

"This is a big ‘thank you’ for the people who opened up their homes and came out and helped search for her," said Julia Karrenbauer, Emerson’s friend and president of Right to Hike Inc., which was established in her memory.

"It’s hard for some of us to go up there still, and we want to do a happy and true celebration of Meredith’s life and see some people we haven’t seen in awhile."

The walk starts at Meek’s Park in the morning and includes a festival of entertainment and arts and crafts in the afternoon. Families are invited to bring their dogs as well.

"Dogs usually aren’t welcome on that part of the trail, but this is for that day only because Ella (Emerson’s dog) was so important to her," Karrenbauer said.

Sponsorship and donations will benefit Right to Hike, Inc., Blairsville Chapter of the Red Cross, Blairsville Humane Society and Union County Search and Rescue.

"We’re very excited to host this at our park because the search continues to have a profound impact on people in our community," Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris said. "People who knew her and felt like they got to know her through the search have a fond place for her here."

Right to Hike also will hold the second annual Ella’s Run, which was named Gwinnett County’s 2008 event of the year.

"Last was phenomenal and an unbelievable honor to be named that," she said. "More than 600 people came out, and it was overwhelming. We’re more prepared this year."

Karrenbauer said her favorite part of the event was when the winner ran with a dog.

"We all want to continue her memory and the way she would want to make a difference in the world," she said. "Somebody else had the last say in her life, but we want the last say in her memory."