Like many teenagers, Zoe Loren frequently surprised her parents with her notions and ideas. But that's because Zoe Loren was compassionate beyond her 15 years, an old soul touched deeply by the problems and suffering of others.
When Zoe died last year, just days short of her 16th birthday, her parents and friends knew they had lost someone who already had touched so many lives.
Her spirit, memory and good works are kept alive through the Zoe Loren Make a Difference Foundation, which already has awarded two scholarships and donated money to causes Zoe was passionate about. The foundation's first 5K Walk/Run will take place Nov. 13 at Carlin Park in Jupiter.
"We want to do one big event, something where all ages can come out. And a run is also very upbeat and happy, like Zoe," said her mother, Evonn Loren.
Zoe was in her junior year at Suncoast High when she got sick in October 2010. She wasn't feeling quite right. Her pediatrician did blood work, suspected a virus. Three days later, Evonn looked in on Zoe to find her having a seizure in her bed. The seizures led to cardiac arrest. Her brain swelled, destroying her brain stem, her mother said.
At St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, doctor's induced a coma to protect her from additional seizures. But they were blunt with Bruce and Evonn Loren.
"I can't say we didn't have hope, but we were told very clearly what the outcome would be," Evonn Loren said.
Nine days would pass before all the medications the doctors had used to induce the coma finally exited Zoe's body and the family could know for sure there was no brain activity left. In those nine days, Bruce Loren, a lawyer, wrote a journal about his daughter - what she cared about, the lives she already had touched. And from there, the Zoe Loren Make a Difference Foundation was created.
She cared about homeless people and stray animals, her mother said.
"We could not drive by a homeless person or someone begging for food without giving something," she said. "And later, she would talk about that person."
The previous summer while Zoe was on a photography internship in New York, she made daily trips to Union Square to give food to a homeless family, Evonn said.
"She called me because she saw a homeless family at the train station. She would go to Union Square and give food to the homeless. To Zoe, this was natural."
"And she hated to see stray dogs," she added. The family had adopted a rescue dog the year before Zoe got sick.
Zoe also had become an advocate in fighting eating disorders after a friend became anorexic in their eighth-grade year at Meyer Jewish Academy. Zoe joined the advisory board for the Alliance for Eating Disorders.
"In some ways, I think life affected her because she was so sensitive," Evonn Loren said.
Those passions have led the foundation to donate money to the alliance and to no-kill animal shelters; to JAY Ministries of Riviera Beach, which helps families and neighborhoods affected by drug addictions; and for scholarships for students at Suncoast and Meyer Academy.
The Lorens keep a box filled with notes from her Suncoast classmates, who wrote how Zoe had affected their lives, even in small ways. "I was new to school and Zoe sat with me," one note reads. "I will cherish that forever," Evonn Loren said
And Evonn is thankful that a core group of Zoe's friends feel comfortable enough to come visit with her, talk about Zoe and sit in Zoe's room, just as they all did before Zoe died.
"To talk about her actually is the best part of our day," her mother said. "It's a gift to us when they sit around and describe her."
"To be honest, we had no idea all the things she did in her very short life."