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Jay Paris: Personal trainer has a personal connection to Washington tragedy

The heartbreak raced down the coast and landed, in all places, at the La Costa Resort and Spa.

The impact of last month’s deadly landslide in Oso, Wash., was felt by all that saw its wreckage. The graphic pictures of that modest, blue-collar town being decimated in an instant were stunning.

But to Emily Hilgemann, they were more than shocking visuals.

“I was born there,’’ Hilgemann said. “My mom was a teacher and principal in the district. My dad was the high-school soccer coach.’’

So for Hilgemann, a personal trainer at La Costa, it was personal.

“All my friends are still there,’’ Hilgemann said.

Some of those friends have relatives that didn’t survive. Others were first-responders, sifting through the 300 acres of muck and mud to save community members.

“They compared it to being enough dirt to fill up three baseball stadiums,’’ Hilgemann said. “It was like all the concrete of Hoover Dam falling on them at 60 miles per hour. That’s crazy.’’

So Hilgemann, a Carlsbad resident who’s worked for 10 years at La Costa, got busy. She organized Healing Oso, a fund-raising dinner April 27.

Hilgemann’s clients — from the well-known to the anonymous — are helping her after years of her helping them. Not only does she expect nearly 200 people to attend the event at La Costa, but her acquaintances are donating items to auction.

Dan Fouts sent a signed football.

Fred Lynn put his John Hancock on a jersey.

Rod Laver is contributing autographed books.

The Chargers have a goody bag at the ready; the same goes for the Padres.

There are golf packages to the area’s finest courses. Wine. Trips to Arizona and beyond.

“Everyone has been so nice,’’ Hilgemann said. “I almost feel bad for doing this. Someone wanted to give me $1,500 paintings.’’

But then Hilgemann reflects on those she grew up with and their plight. So she plows ahead, working her way through a to-do list that protrudes from both sides of her crammed Manila folder.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,’’ said Hilgemann, but that hasn’t stopped her from seeking a basketball signed by Kansas’ team.

Those knowing Hilgemann aren’t surprised she attacked this endeavor with passion.

“I admire her a lot for what she is trying to do,’’ said Carlsbad’s Ann Bennett, who has trained with Hilgemann since 2009. “It’s her hometown and she was down here, felt hopeless and thought,  ‘What can I do to help?’ She’s doing all this while working and being a full-time mother and wife.’’

Also with an ailing leg that has her on crutches. But a hip injury from running can’t slow Hilgemann.

“I knew people around here would love for me to do something and everyone has been so supportive,’’ she said. “They are having like bake sales up there and I knew down here we could do something bigger. There are charity events here for things that already have money so I knew with this being a real cause, where people have died, that everyone would come through.’’

That’s been proven as Hilgemann has yet to hear that one word when making requests.

“No one has said, ‘no,’’’ she said.

Want to assist Hilgemann? Tickets at $75 for the April 27 dinner are available at the door. Auction items are being accepted by Hilgemann at [email protected] Donations can be made at

“And every single penny is going to all the victims,’’ Hilgemann stressed, and I believe her.

“I was sad I wasn’t there to help when it happened,’’ she said. “It’s just a small town where everyone knows everyone.’’

Now we know how to help.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.