(WGHP) — Lily Butler seemed to have the life so many young people strive for.

“She was top of her class since the sixth-grade. She was athletically inclined. She was an avid runner,” her father Chip said. “She loved people. She was a Christian. She was well-liked by her peers.”

The Butlers tell the story of what they heard from some of the fellow high schoolers Lily befriended.

“I ate lunch by myself in the lunchroom until Lily started eating with me,” they said they heard from some kids. “She was over there with the other girls, but she noticed me…eating alone, and she befriended me.”

But Lily was dealing with her own issues all along, and they were the kind of things her parents couldn’t readily see.

“Outwardly, a cut or a scrape is easy to diagnose: go to the doctor. They fix you up,” Chip said. “But when they’re internal struggles, when someone is hurting on the inside, that’s a little tougher to notice, especially because it gets masked by other activities. So from outward appearances, you say, ‘They’ve got it all together. They’re doing well,’ and it’s not noticeable. Internally, Lily struggled with an eating disorder.”

And one that even those living with her had a hard time noticing.

“It is a slow progression,” Chip said. “It happens almost unnoticeably: the wearing of baggy clothes…everything you justify…there’s a reason for this. There’s a reason for that.”

For several years, they had Lily in treatment programs including the one that was considered the premier clinic in south Florida.

“Not only were they treating her, they were treating us,” Chip said. “We went down every single weekend.”

“For three months,” Lily’s mom Carol said.

“For three months to Miami, and we would have sessions without any of the other kids there, and there were nine kids there,” Chip said. “And we were taught which words to say, which words not to say. For example, at Thanksgiving, when you walk in and your grandmother says, ‘Oh, come in. You look so healthy. Come in. I’m going to put some meat on your bones.’ Not good words to say. We take it for granted. We’ve heard it all of our lives.”

Over the years, it was all too much for Lily. During the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, Lily took her own life. She was just 17.

Because Lily had influenced the lives of so many people, they decided to do what Lily loved by organizing a run to remind people of the things Lily would remind them of: you’re beautiful. You’re special. You’re invaluable. 

They do it as close to Lily’s birthday on March 11 as they can. The 2023 run was on March 18. 

The 2024 run will be on March 16. More than 400 people signed up to be part of the event in 2023, touching the hearts of Lily’s parents.

See more about Lily’s life and the incredible thing her parents learned about her at her wak, in this edition of The Buckley Report.