A friendship that started in high school when Meg (Murphy) Flategraff needed a partner in a class now has Flategraff spearheading the annual Dru Sjodin Purple Elephant Run/Walk, scheduled at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, in Trailside Park in Pequot Lakes.
The run will start and end at Dru’s Garden in the park.
"She (Dru Sjodin) reached out right away and said, ‘I’ll be partners with you.’ From there we had a friendship through high school."
— Meg (Murphy) Flategraff
Flategraff had moved with her family to Pequot Lakes as a high school sophomore and met Sjodin, who was a year younger, in a class.
“The teacher wanted us to pair up,” Flategraff said, noting she didn’t know anyone. “She (Sjodin) reached out right away and said, ‘I’ll be partners with you.’ From there we had a friendship through high school.”
Flategraff ventured to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks after graduating from Pequot Lakes High School in 1999, and Sjodin followed the next year. They joined the same sorority and were roommates, and remained roommates in on and off campus apartments.
Then in November 2003, Sjodin was abducted in a Grand Forks mall parking lot after leaving work and was killed at age 22. Her body was found nearly five months later.
In 2007, the Purple Elephant Run/Walk began as a memorial to Sjodin and as a way to create awareness of violence against women and children.
“I was always interested in taking over someday,” Flategraff said.
She and her husband, Russell Flategraff, moved back to Pequot Lakes with their three children two years ago, and Flategraff got her chance to organize the event. This will be her first year since the 2020 run was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s very meaningful because it’s a huge part of my life,” she said, noting it keeps Sjodin’s memory alive when high school and college friends come to Pequot Lakes to participate.
The event is also good for the community. Besides growing the event, a goal is to raise money to start a radKIDS program in Pequot Lakes. The program provides educational tools and resources that enhance the ability of children, parents and families to use knowledge, skills and power to protect themselves from violence and harm.
"Everybody who has a child wants their child to be remembered. The generosity of the community is above and beyond."
— Linda Walker, Dru Sjodin's mother
The program has the full support of Linda Walker, Sjodin’s mother.
“There just really are no words,” Walker said when asked how she feels about the Purple Elephant Run/Walk and Dru Sjodin Golf Tournament (to be held Sunday, Aug. 8, at Whitefish Golf Club) still being held each year in Sjodin’s name.
“Everybody who has a child wants their child to be remembered. The generosity of the community is above and beyond,” Walker said.
Funds go to causes Sjodin would have been passionate about, Walker said, noting her dream is to bring that lasting legacy full circle with the radKIDS program.
She met the leader of radKIDS, Steve Daley, when working on legislation in Washington, D.C.
“Wow. Every child should have an opportunity to understand their self-worth, self-value and also have the right to protect themselves and speak out when things don’t feel right,” Walker said. “It’s empowering for children to understand if they’re confronted with a situation that doesn’t feel right.”
Crafters from Timeless Appeal in Pequot Lakes are repurposing signs from the first Purple Elephant events that will be sold at the event.
For anyone who can’t attend the run/walk but wants to donate to the cause, an account is set up at First National Bank of Walker in Pequot Lakes.
Dru Sjodin Purple Elephant Run/Walk
- When: Saturday, Aug. 7.
- Where: Start and ends at Dru’s Garden in Trailside Park in Pequot Lakes.
- Race options: 10K begins at 8 a.m.; 5K begins at 8:05 a.m.; 1K will follow the last finishers of the 5K/10k races.
- Cost: $25 through Aug. 4 and $30 on race day for the 5K and 10K; $15 until Aug. 4 and $20 on race day for the 1K.
- Register: https://runfordru.itsyourrace.com/
- Virtual race: There is a virtual option for the 5K and 10K for those who want to support from afar.
Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.