It was a day of fun and excitement for many of the families who attended the second annual run and play for Ariana Mae event at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge, Saturday.
However, the day was still bittersweet for the Lusis family, who started the event last year.
Kris and Kelly Lusis, of Grand Ledge, lost their daughter, Ariana, back in November of 2010. She was only 21 months old.
"She passed away in her sleep and we were not given an explanation for her death," said Kelly Lusis. "We started searching for answers and we stumbled upon a program called SUDC, which stands for Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood."
Through that program, the Lusis family met other families with similar experiences. They also met researchers who study the disease.
It was then that they had an idea.
"We wanted to raise money for SUDC and we decided to organize an event in her honor," said Lusis.
That event became the Run and Play for Ariana Mae and last year, it raised more than $16,000 dollars for childhood death research.
This year, more events were added, including face painting and a bounce house. The Lusis family also added another goal to their list.
"They've decided to put on this event to give back to the community," said Sarah Anderson, a family friend and event coordinator for the event. "We're raising money to build a toddler play structure at Fitzgerald Park."
If enough money is raised, the structure will be built in September. In the meantime, Kris and Kelly Lusis just want their daughter's story to get out.
"We can either let it destroy us, or we can grow from it and we can do some really great things with it," said Lusis.
If you wish to learn more about Ariana and her cause, you can go to arianasrun.com.