BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Saturday marked two years when life for a Baldwinsville family forever changed.

The Annal family was taking a day trip to Letchwork State Park when a pickup truck rear ended the family’s minivan in a construction zone on the New York State Thruway. Sadly, daughters Maryella (11) and Elizabeth (9) did not survive the accident.

Since the tragedy, the community has continued to uplift and support the family. On Saturday, at Palmer Elementary School in Baldwinsville, hundreds of runners and walkers took part in this year’s Annal’s Angels 5K Run and Walk in memory of Maryella and Elizabeth.

One of those runners was Julia Lemay, one of Maryella and Elizabeth’s many friends. The event was a way for Lemay to honor her friends, and it makes the pain of missing them a little easier.

“I knew them a long time and it was really devastating. I just like to be part of something that helps give back to the community and do what they loved most.”

JULIA LEMAY, FRIEND OF MARYELLA AND ELIZABETH ANNAL

For Maryella and Elizabeth’s father, Tom Annal, also injured in the crash two years ago, community support has turned his grief into gratitude.

“It just helps us keep going in life and just keep going on and do the next right thing. That has been our motto is to do the next right thing.”

TOM ANNAL, FATHER OF MARYELLA AND ELIZABETH

Friends of Maryella and Elizabeth have been at the core of the community support for the Annal family.

The girls’ friends spent the whole night before the race marking the course with chalk drawings. The one right before the finish line was extra special with a sloth and koala, Maryella and Elizabeth’s favorite animals.

“They have not stopped reaching out to us,” Tom Annal said. “They stop by the house, text us, call us, check in on us, check in on our dog, Bogie…It’s just amazing they still reach out to us.”

As Lemay continues to navigate life without her two dear friends, her message for all of us is simple…

“Just to always be kind and not judge anybody,” she explained. “You never know what anybody is going through, so just always be kind.”

Because as the Annal sisters say, “when given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

All proceeds from the Annal’s Angels 5K Run and Walk goes directly to the organization and will be used for the Baldwinsville Public Library children’s corner renovations and scholarships.

Annal’s Angels mission is to create and enhance opportunities to improve literacy and foster the love of reading in school-aged students in Central New York by providing scholarships in memory of Maryella and Elizabeth.

Annal’s Angels also promotes a stronger local community by construction of playgrounds and children’s spaces in local libraries. Learn more about the organization by clicking here.