It all started with an act of friendship…
She was only 55 when she died.
But the legacy Kim Stemple left behind will live on forever in WE Finish Together.
Kim was diagnosed in 2009 with a multitude of auto-immune diseases, triggered by genetics. A teacher by profession and an avid runner, she had planned to run the Las Vegas marathon, but was unable to participate because of her illness. After the race, a fellow runner spontaneously handed Kim her medal. Kim was so inspired by the gesture of kindness, she asked another friend to create a personalized tag to add to the medal that read, “The greatest use of life is to spend it on something which will outlast it.” The medal and tag accompanied Kim to every infusion and the idea of a medal with a personalized message to share with someone else was born and in 2012, WE Finish Together was officially established.
Nurtured by friendship…
Kim and four of her friends proceeded to collect medals, create handwritten tags to accompany the medals and deliver them within the Boston community where they lived and worked. To Kim, the medals were a physical reminder of the compassion of a caring community and a visual reminder of how a simple act of kindness can change the course of lives for the better.
Fast forward to 2015, when Florida resident Blake Starr read about Kim’s project online:
“There were so many things about Kim’s crusade which resonated with me. Like Kim, I was involved in my community. And I was a runner who had accumulated medals which were no longer meaningful to me. I loved the idea that I could share my strength with someone who needed it, whether it be a close friend or complete stranger. “
Inspired by what she had read, Blake reached out to Kim and offered to start a chapter, or fleet as the chapters are now known, in South Florida. With connections to a large network of runners, Blake delivered her first basket of medals with inspirational tags to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital three weeks later and proceeded to network both locally and online.
A Runner’s World article about Kim was published at the end of October and put WE Finish Together on the nation’s radar. Together, Kim and Blake handled the barrage of calls and expanded the reach of the organization both geographically and demographically. What started as a project to offer support, compassion and inspiration to those diagnosed with illness soon expanded to include children in foster care, people facing homelessness, active military service members and veterans, children and adults with mental and physical disabilities, and so many more.
Inspired by friendship…
Kim and Blake had a virtual partnership; they communicated regularly via email or chatted on the phone. But they did not actually meet until 2016. By then, the partnership had blossomed into a tightly knit friendship, with both women committed to taking the organization to the next level together, with Blake as the designated successor.
Kim passed away in June 2019. But her determination to connect people and her belief that community outreach creates hope, strength, and support will always be the cornerstone of We Finish Together. Kim’s efforts to put the KIND back in humankind is realized as each medal and accompanying message touches someone’s life.