Geoff Schaefer of Olney has had to adjust to a new normal since his wife died unexpectedly nearly a year ago, but with the help of family and friends, life goes on for him and his two young daughters.
“There have been a lot of tears shed over the past year, but I now know that I am going to be OK, because I have great support,” he said.
Denise Schaefer, 38, died May 10 from a blood infection, survived by daughters Hailey, now 6, and Katelyn, 3.
She was a counselor and coached softball at Magruder High School and also was a T-ball commissioner for the Olney Boys and Girls Club.
Geoff Schaefer, an English teacher at Whitman High School in Bethesda, said that his friends and neighbors have stepped up to help him in multiple ways — whether it be helping out when he or the girls are sick or reminding him to plan birthday parties.
“They definitely keep me on track,” he said.
He said that shortly after Denise died, her friends gathered to help set up meals, and the idea came up of creating an event in her memory.
Amy Wenger and Denise met their first week at Gettysburg (Pa.) College. They were both math majors and in the same sorority. After college, they moved to the Washington. area, where they were roommates for about five years.
Wenger, now of Vienna, Va., took the idea and created a nonprofit with a board of directors comprising Denise’s Magruder colleagues and friends.
“Losing Denise was like losing a piece of myself, so it was really important that we do something to honor her,” Wenger said.
Denise had became a runner later in life, completing the Marine Corps Marathon as a “bucket list” item and running in the Iron Girl Half Marathon just two weeks before her death.
“She was a planner and a goal-setter,” Wenger said. “When she first told me she was training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I thought she was nuts. That was a big accomplishment for her, so I thought that this was the best way to honor her.”
The inaugural Dee’s Dash road race will take place Sunday morning.
“This is 100 percent Amy,” Geoff said. “She has invested more time on this that I could have ever imagined.”
While Wenger may have taken the lead on the race, she credits Geoff for his strength.
“He’s doing great, and I am really proud of him,” she said. “It’s been a really hard year, and he has done everything he can and needs to do for those girls. They are doing really well because of his efforts. He has been incredibly strong.”
So far, more than 460 participants have signed up for Dee’s Dash.
“This has touched a lot of people,” Geoff said. “There is a lot more to it than just donating money.”
The event, which includes a 5K race and a 1-mile family fun run, will be at Olney Boys and Girls Club Community Park, 4501 Olney-Laytonsville Road. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.
Proceeds will benefit the Denise Wilson Schaefer Memorial Scholarship fund, available to Magruder students.
The Greene Turtle in Olney will open early after the race at 9:30 a.m. and will donate 20 percent of the day’s sales to Dee’s Dash.
Information on registration, donations and volunteering, plus the required Greene Turtle invitation, are at www.deesdash.org.