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With fundraiser, friends of Bridget help nursing students

In death, Bridget McGrath is still making friends.

Not that she didn't have more friends than most people already, and good friends, at that.

McGrath, who was 28 when she was killed in an automobile accident in June 2010, was honored by four of her best friends Saturday at Twin Lakes Park with a walk/run event to raise money for a scholarship fund in her memory at Westmoreland County Community College.

Her parents, Kevin and Gina McGrath of Hannastown, who established the scholarship to aid a deserving nursing student at the college, said they were gratified by yesterday's turnout and the work it took to put the event together.

"It shows just how good people are," said Kevin McGrath, "and how people are there for you when you really need them. You have children, but you never know all the people they've touched."

"I'm just overwhelmed," added Gina McGrath.

Three thousand people were at the funeral home to pay their respects to Bridget Marie McGrath in the days after her death. By all accounts, she had a bubbly, effervescent personality.

"She was wonderful," said Aimee Shultz, one of the four friends who worked countless hours to put Saturday's event together. "She would do anything for anybody. She never said a mean thing about another person in her life."

Shultz said her motto, since McGrath's death, has been "What Would Bridget Do• -- WWBD?"

The four friends -- Shultz, Jen Falo, Valerie DeMichele and Joline Keeler were schoolmates with McGrath, graduating from Hempfield Area High School in the same year -- 2000. One of their friend's outstanding qualities, they all said, was her ability to stay in touch, not just with them but other friends -- "thousands," it was said -- she had collected through the years.

Her death brought her four best friends even closer together in spirit and purpose. Beginning a year ago, their plan was to gather some friends in celebration of McGrath's life. Later, they added the fund-raising component of yesterday's event.

The four traveled from one end of the community to the other, collecting items from businesses for the auctioning off of gift baskets that took place Saturday under Pavilion 2 at the park. All told, there were 49 baskets. More than 100 businesses provided gifts.

McGrath graduated from the Westmoreland County College nursing program a mere six weeks before dying and had already landed a job, with Dr. Frank Costa in Monroeville.

Gina McGrath said her daughter "loved" nursing, and her friends said it was perfect for her because, as Keeler put it, "she loved doing for others."

Having come late to nursing, she embraced it fully, said her mother, adding that McGrath was planning on becoming a nurse practitioner.

"She was at the peak of her life," Gina McGrath said.

The hope is that the Bridget McGrath Scholarship will continue far into the future. "Even when we're gone," Gina McGrath said.

McGrath's best friends promised "a bigger, better event next year", replete with a web site and a Facebook page, in celebration of McGrath and in support of the run/walk.

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