Remembering Raija

Family of late coach establishes organization


Photo: Aidan Lee

The Sanford family speaks at a University Prep Varsity Girls basketball game after the death of Raija Sanford. Pat Sanford, Raija’s father, introduced Live Like Raija, an organization that strives to provide student athletes with the same immersion opportunities Raija recieved in her life.

By Theo Mahlum, Business Manager

As a testament to the life of Raija Sanford, a University Prep alumna and JV basketball coach, the Sanford family founded Live Like Raija in October of 2018. The Sanford Family founded Live Like Raija with the intention of giving athletes and coaches cultural exploration opportunities, opportunities Raija received. 

“The founding beliefs of Live Like Raija are Raija’s beliefs.””

— Pat Sanford, Father of Raija Sanford

The organization strives to send athletes and coaches with less privileged backgrounds on trips, exposing them to different cultures through athletics. 

“The founding beliefs of Live Like Raija are Raija’s beliefs. Raija loved sports, healthy living, travel, and she acted on her sense of social justice and helping the underserved through her various volunteer efforts,” said Pat Sanford, Raijas’ father. 

“In the immediate future our hope is to provide assistance in small ways so that the student whose family can’t consider the school trip that needs an additional $500 would now be able to say yes to those experiences with the help of Live Like Raija,” Sanford said. 

“[The organization] sounds like something Raija would really like,” said Mimi Zekaryas, a junior whom Sanford coached. 

After graduating in 2007 from UPrep, Sanford returned in 2012 to coach girls basketball.

Even after her death on Sept. 26, 2018, Raija continues to have an impact on Zerkayas.

 “Now that Raija is gone, I want to do things that Raija encouraged me to do,” Zekaryas said. 

Live Like Raija  is hosting a fun run at 10 a.m. on May 4 at Lincoln Park in West Seattle. 

One-hundred-and-forty-one community members have already signed up to run Raijas everyday 5k running route. Zekaryas plans on attending.  

“May 4th is, first and foremost, about celebrating Raija,” Sanford said.

At 7 p.m. on May 4, there will be a party at the Alki Community Center.

“Each of these events are open to any and all who know Raija and would like to share their memories of her with others,” Sanfordsaid. 

Sanford encourages all who knew Raija to “please remember her energy, her positivity and her humor.”