HAYWARD — This week, an East Bay family will once again honor the memory of a promising young woman killed in a horrific crash twelve years ago with a scholarship awarded to two recipients in her name.
Karen Gordin was just 19 years old when she was killed in an accident on her birthday just days after Thanksgiving in 2001.
At the time, Karen was interning at KTVU, studying at Cal State Hayward and she worked as a lifeguard and children’s swim teacher for a Hayward aquatics program.
It was inside the Hayward Plunge that Karen Gordin found a second home. Those who knew her still remember the joy she brought.
"Her smile. Always had a good attitude," said coworker and pool manager Tom Prusinovski.
"She was smart. She was energetic. She was a pleasure to be with," said Karen's father Jeff Gordin.
It was on Karen's 19th birthday that tragedy struck. The driver of a stolen van being chased by police lost control
"They were chasing it. Karen was going the other way to work. Car went right over the median slammed right into her," remembered her father.
But in the months that followed her death, Karen’s legacy was born.
"When Karen passed away, we started getting money. I don't know the exact totals," said Prusinovski. "We started thinking, 'What should we do with this money?'"
And so the Karen Gordin Scholarship was created. It is given to two recipients every year to help with college and career goals.
This year, Crystal Scott will receive one to help her achieve her dream of becoming a nurse
"It's sad, because you almost wish the scholarship wasn't there and you feel guilty," said Scott.
In the past 12 years, much has changed.
The kids Karen taught to swim are now in college. The woman convicted in her death was released last year and her parents are getting ready for retirement.
But while the loss is still profound, this year they will come together again to remember her smile and to honor the life she lived. Jeff Gordin says she would have loved knowing that she could still give, even though she's gone.
"Those young adults who embody everything Karen was: the spirit the care and the kindness," said Gordin.
The Hayward Plunge will hold a swim Thanksgiving morning to recognize the recipients and to raise money for next year's scholarships.