SKANEATELES | There's no way Katie Socci would show up to the race held in her honor wearing running shoes.
Smiling while remembering their kind, funny friend during a dinner at a Skaneateles restaurant with Katie's mom and sister, Karrie Glatt and Erin Colaneri explained that Katie would be much happier during the live-music portion of the Socci Stiletto Stampede — where she could laugh and enjoy a drink with family and friends.
Katie, in other words, would've been happier in stilettos than sneakers.
But, if it meant helping others, her friends know the late Katie Socci would do anything to aid someone in need. If that meant hoofing 3.1 miles, Katie would lace up and ask "where to?"
The giving spirit that embodied Katie is what motivates her friends to continue organizing the Socci Stiletto Stampede — a fundraiser aimed at raising awareness about domestic violence.
In its fourth year, the stampede will be held in Skaneateles at The Lodge at Welch Allyn. The event was moved from the Liverpool area to Skaneateles after a kind offer from The Lodge.
"We were kind of up in the air this year to get it closer to Auburn, where she's from," Karrie said. "That's the goal."
The Socci Stiletto Stampede is slated for June 7 — a few days before the fourth anniversary of Katie's murder at the hands of her ex-boyfriend.
On June 14, 2011, Katie had just tucked her then-18-month-old daughter into bed inside their Auburn home when she was attacked from behind by David McNamara, the father of her child.
As their child slept, McNamara strangled a struggling Katie to death — a calculated act borne of McNamara's jealousy and anger that Katie was finally moving on. He then drove the 29-year-old Auburn woman a few miles away and left her body in a shallow grave.
McNamara, however, did not escape justice.
A few months after pleading guilty to killing Katie, McNamara was sentenced in 2013 to serve 20 years to life in prison for second-degree murder. The 38-year-old inmate is currently incarcerated in the Clinton Correctional Facility, and will not be eligible for parole until 2031.
In the wake of Katie's death, Karrie and two of Katie's other best friends, Erin Colaneri and Korynne Higa, were determined to honor their friend.
The four friends had become inseparable years earlier in California, where they worked as travelling nurses.
Over time, they all ended up back in the Syracuse area. The nurses remained close as their lives evolved and grew to include significant others and children.
When they lost Katie, Karrie said she and Erin thought they could best continue Katie's legacy by creating a nursing scholarship to help future nurses attend Cayuga Community College and follow in Katie's compassionate footsteps. But to create the Katie M. Socci Memorial Scholarship, they needed to raise enough money to fund an endowment.
After trying bake sales, Erin said they thought of a bigger way to raise money: a 5K race.
And so, in May 2012, the Socci Stiletto Stampede was born. The event kicked off with a 50-yard dash. It was followed by a 5K race and, later, live music and drinks.
The race served its purpose, raising enough money to cover an endowment for Katie's scholarship. It also was successful for another, equally important reason: It reflected Katie's spirit.
"It was a way for us to keep her memory alive," Karrie said, "and help us keep her."
For that, Tina Socci — Katie's mother — is grateful.
"I'm just thankful that it keeps Katie's name alive," Tina said, her eyes filling with tears. "I don't want people to forget Katie."
With Katie's scholarship now self-sustainable, the stampede is fully geared toward raising awareness about domestic violence. Proceeds from the event are split between Vera House and the Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency's Domestic Violence Intervention Program.
While the event's purpose is serious, the women who organize the Socci Stiletto Stampede ensure all who attend have a good time.
Grinning, Erin explained that the event still begins with stiletto-wearing participants completing a 50-yard dash. Many participants wear costumes. The men, she said, tend to come in drag.
"It starts with a co-ed, colorful, scantily clad run," she said.
Following the dash, participants retire their stilettos and line up for the 5K run/walk. Some runners compete in tutus, and have been greeted at the finish line by a glitter-tossing Sydney — Katie's daughter.
After winners of the dash and race are awarded prizes, the Socci Stiletto Stampede moves on to the part of the event Karrie said "embodies Katie the most": live music, raffles and auctions, local vendors and a cash bar.
"We try to make it as loud and fun as Katie was when we hung out," she said.
As attendees rock out to local bands and cool off from the run with a few drinks, no one loses sight of what drives the Socci Stiletto Stampede.
"It's not just that we want to be a domestic violence fund," Karrie said. "We want you to know that you can be obnoxious and loud and that doesn't mean someone has the right to put their hands on you."
Jen Socci, Katie's sister, agreed.
"Putting the focus more on domestic violence, I feel like we can help people," she said. "And that's what Katie would do."
Erin, joined by Karrie and Tina, nodded her head seriously.
"That," she echoed, "is what Katie would do."