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Kevin Hopp ran 350 miles for charity during the week of Thanksgiving. His miles earned donations for Monarch School, a school for unhoused children in San Diego, and Soles4Souls, an organization that distributes clothes and shoes to those in need. Photo by Abigail Sourwine
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North County teacher runs 350 miles in a week to honor former student

REGION — Kevin Hopp, a longtime North County math teacher, spent the week of Thanksgiving on his feet.

Starting Nov. 20, he woke up early, ran 25 miles to work at Fleet Feet in San Diego, helped customers navigate holiday sales and, when his shift ended, ran 25 miles to his San Marcos home.

“On the end of day six — Saturday night — I had run 54 hours and that was 280 miles. So, what’s left for sleeping and recovery?” Hopp said. “It’s a lot of your day, but I was committed to it.”

By the end of the week, he had racked up 350 miles. Nonprofits matched his mileage, and his efforts led to donations of shoes and clothes to unhoused people through Soles4Souls and $3,500 for Monarch School, which serves unhoused youth in San Diego.

Kevin Hopp stands with a team of volunteers for Molly’s Angels, including Molly Belinksy’s mother, Sheila. Molly’s Angels donated $1 to Monarch School for every mile run by Hopp and other “ambassadors” who logged their miles. Monarch School serves unhoused students in San Diego. Photo by Abigail Sourwine

Hopp’s quest was to honor a former student, Molly Belinsky, who was 28 when she died in 2019 from an accidental overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl. Molly had Hopp for math all four years of high school at Canyon Crest Academy, and he was one of her favorite teachers.

“He was so kind and non-judging and she could talk to him freely,” Molly’s mom, Sheila Belinsky, said. “He was just there for her at the time.”

Hopp said the school was just a bunch of portable classrooms back then. Without a proper campus, Molly spent time in his classroom during breaks. Though Hopp and Sheila Belinsky agree that sitting and chatting doesn’t sound like much, they know it meant a lot to Molly. She even named a cat after her teacher: Gilligan Gaylord Hopp.

“It wasn’t about me bonding with her; it was about her bonding with me. I just listened,” said Hopp, who also taught math at La Costa Canyon High School and Oak Crest Middle School during his two decades with San Dieguito Union High School District.

Kevin Hopp runs around Discovery Lake in San Marcos with Marilynn Gallagher, a teacher who overlapped with Hopp at Canyon Crest Academy. Photo by Abigail Sourwine

At the time of her death, Molly had struggled with addiction for 15 years. Shortly before she died, she made strides toward forming a foundation for victims of sexual abuse.

“I want to get well so I can mentor other women who have been through what I went through. I believe it is my journey,” Molly wrote on Facebook. “A year from now, expect to hear about my foundation.”

While Molly was never able to finish setting up her foundation, her mom carried the torch and started Molly’s Angels. The organization provides musical instruments, sports equipment, tuition payments and other support to help disadvantaged youth pursue education, sports and the arts.

“I can’t bring Molly back,” Sheila said. “You can’t go backwards, but I can keep her spirit alive.”

Molly’s Angels pledged to donate $1 to Monarch School for every mile Hopp, or anyone else who wanted to contribute to the cause, ran. They estimated the community racked up over 3,500 miles.

Kevin Hopp ran in partnership with Molly’s Angels, a charitable organization in honor of Molly Belinsky. Belinsky died from an accidental overdose in 2019. The organization helps disadvantaged youth engage in education, sports and the arts by providing instruments, sports equipment, tuition payments and partnerships with other nonprofits. Photo by Abigail Sourwine

Hopp’s miles also went toward the Run It Forward challenge, held by clothing company Rabbit.

In the challenge, teams made up of the brand’s ambassadors tracked their miles run from Nov. 20 to Nov. 26. For every 10 miles, Rabbit donates an article of apparel to Soles4Souls.

Last year, Hopp signed up as a team of one. He ran 302 miles and came in second place, just behind a group of three people who ran a combined 310 miles.

“It’s so interesting that they use ‘Run It Forward’ when Molly’s Angels has ‘Love It Forward’ as their tagline,” Hopp said. “So, it just fit. It just fit right in.”

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