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'SHE'D BE HAPPY' | After teen's death, Michigan family helping others in her memory

Julianna Ward-Brown passed away at age 16 in a car accident. Since then, an event in her honor celebrates the lives of children lost too soon.

HOWELL, Mich. — It's been more than four years since the day that took Julianna Ward-Brown's life and changed the lives of her family members forever. Julianna was on her way to a hockey event in Lansing when she was involved in a deadly crash on I-96. 

Not a day has gone by since the remaining members of the Ward-Brown family haven't thought about her.

"She was always willing to try new things and make new friends and just make everybody feel comfortable. It didn't matter who you are or what you did. She made everyone feel like they were important," said her father Mark Ward.

Not long after the passing of a girl whose mother Beth Brown will remember as "a total goofball" who was "very silly and very rambunctious," the family started an event in her honor. It's called Miles For Smiles, and it's a 5K and 10K run and walk.

"The whole purpose of it is to celebrate kids that we've lost too soon. So we have pictures of the kids on the course. We do have a banner at the beginning and end of the run with the kids' pictures, and it's just a way to celebrate," said Beth.

When Julianna passed away, the community supported her family and now they want to give back to families who are also on grief journeys of their own.

"We wanted to be able to share the same experience with those other families and provide that support vehicle for them to get through things and, and just bounce things off each other and help everyone get through it," Mark said.

The event also raises money for Julianna's Wishes, an organization named in the late teenager's honor. It has paid to help athletic teams, build a memorial garden, and give scholarships among other things.

"I think she would definitely be glad that her memory has been kept alive. Instead of losing her, we've kept her alive. I know it's affected a lot of people that didn't know her and have been touched by her now. So it's been pretty great. I think she'd be very happy," said Julianna's brother Stephen Ward-Brown.

This year's event will be held at Howell High School on Saturday, August 6. Participants should register online. There is also a virtual option. You can also follow Julianna's Wish on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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