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South Jordan Journal

Minerettes continually remember one of their own

Nov 11, 2019 05:04PM ● By Catherine Garrett

The eighth Annual Astra Waller Memorial 5K is held each September to celebrate the life and legacy of former Minerette Astra Waller who passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2011. (Photos courtesy Shaun Absey)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Former Bingham Minerette Astra Waller loved the color pink, so it only seems fitting that a pink sunrise greets participants each fall at the annual Astra Waller Memorial 5K. 

Waller, who passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2011 at the age of 20, was a huge inspiration to fellow dancers during her time on the Bingham High program as a Minerette for three years and then helping to coach following her graduation.

“Astra was an incredible soul who touched so many people, and even though we moved to Texas [from South Jordan] four years ago, we still come every single year,” her mother Jamie Waller said. “We are incredibly grateful that the Minerettes keep her spirit alive and continue to do this.”

For the past eight years — and through a few coaching changes — former and current Minerettes and their families gather each September with the Waller’s to remember the All-Region dancer. At the end of the 5K, participants cross the finish line that is lined with an arch of pink balloons and they all hold hands together in the air. 

“This year, I felt her spirit more so than in a lot of years, and it just felt like she was saying, ‘I’m OK, Mom,’” Jamie Waller said. The annual event also raises money for fighting the disease that receives no governmental funding as it is considered an orphan disease.

Jamie Waller sewed for the Minerettes — through older daughter Erin’s and then Astra’s time with the program — and then four years beyond Astra’s passing. 

“That was an incredible gift of healing for me to have the girls still around and me still involved with the program,” she said. “It never gets easier; it just gets different.” Jamie also noted that because Astra loved socks, she always brings pairs to the Minerettes when she visits them, whether it’s for Halloween, Christmas or in preparation for state. She continually shares Astra’s story — and her heart — with the girls as she meets with them.

The Waller’s are still being affected daily by the degenerative disease that affects the respiratory and digestive systems of the body, as their 23-year-old son Alex is also fighting the disease — a disease that the father, Art Waller, described at Astra’s funeral as like living life “breathing through a straw.” 

Current Minerette coach Erika Cox said it is important to remember Astra because of the lessons that her legacy teaches. 

“I know what our dancers do each day, and for Astra to be able to do perform like she did on such limited lung capacity [42%] puts so much in perspective for all of us,” Cox said. “We don’t know her personally, but we feel a bond with her and a connection with her family.”

Each uniform the Minerettes wear has a small star rhinestone sewn in them to again help remember Astra as her name literally means “our little star.” The girls also wear pink wristbands that have stars on them, and each printed program or flier additionally has pink stars on them.

“As a mother, it was always my job to protect Astra,” Jamie Waller said. “When she passed away, I feared that she would be forgotten. The Minerettes have certainly not let that happen.”