By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Family and friends mourning the loss of a young woman killed in a rock climbing accident want to remember her for love of adventure and passion to help others. Lauren Guthrie encouraged others to live their lives to the fullest just like she did.

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“I met Lauren in Gymboree when I was around one and half,” said Casey Slaybaugh, 17, a childhood friend of Guthrie. “She’s been my best friend forever.”

Guthrie, 18, was killed on Thursday at Clear Creek Canyon when she fell while rappelling. Her family says she died doing what she loved, the people who knew Guthrie from all aspects of her life want to honor her and the impact she had on them. Friends from school, teachers, and those who worked with her in Colorado Young Leaders all took time on Saturday to speak to CBS4 about Guthrie.

(credit: CBS)

“She was such an awesome person and all she wanted to and all she did in her 18 years of living was change the world and this organization let her do that,” said Johnny Hultzapple, 18. He worked with her in Colorado Young Leaders over the past year. “Through this organization, it really helped her become the leader she was meant to be.”

The two worked together on an event to help remove the stigma around mental health. They quickly became friends thanks to the organization and were excited to attend college together in the fall. He was one of many friends who wanted to speak about her. They even wore her favorite type of shoes, Chacos, as a tribute to her.

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“When I walked in, I felt like I had known Lauren for forever, she was the kindest person,” Tish Richards, 18, remembers when they first met. “She was always giving and she wanted to be there for everyone and she loved life.”

Richards remembers seeing her in Chacos during a meeting in the winter. Guthrie even wore those shoes to prom. She called one of her pairs “Event Chacos” for such occasions. Her friend Emma Duymelinck captured the moment on video.

“She had so many things she wanted to do,” she said. “I was always jealous, ‘how do you get all A’s and still have a life?'”

Guthrie’s passion for the outdoors also shined in the classroom, one of her teachers at Cherry Creek High School quickly noticed she had a way with others.

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“Her leadership style was caring and gentle and kindly bold,” Michael Goeglein said. He teaches Adventure Education at the school. “She’s most happy in the outdoors.”

Guthrie was a freshman when he first had her as a student but she stayed with the subject, becoming a student leader and spending many semesters in his classroom.

“Her smile got a little bit bigger when she got to be in the outdoors and other people discovered that was a special place,” he said. “Her caring for other people was paramount. She continually put others before her needs.”

She joined Colorado Young Leaders at the age of 14 and recently completed their program exploring her passions at the beginning and then completing a legacy project. Nicole Mahobian founded the group five years ago to help young people use their voice so they can change the world.

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“That the girl was full of life,” She remembers of her first impression. “She was going to get to do exactly what she wanted to do and that was impact others.”

Mahobian says that as a student leader, Guthrie was already qualified to be a staff member. She maintained a balance of excellence in all that she attempted while spreading kindness at the same time. The organization plans to create a scholarship and an annual event in her honor.

“Lauren’s whole life legacy was to teach everybody that life is an adventure. Lauren lived every day with a purpose and that she could say her life was well lived as an 18 year old.”

Her friends say she was the type of person you wanted around all the time and that to live up to her memory, you must show compassion to every person you meet.

(credit: Colorado Young Leaders)

“Lauren was honestly one of the best people I’ve ever met, she was so lively, so determined,” said Hultzapple “I just want her spirit to live on.”

The word “kind” kept coming up when all her friends tried to describe her. They also credited her with pushing them to do better, a constant source of inspiration. Guthrie was an example of how to treat others the way you want to be treated.  Teachers say that because of her character and service to others, she had already touched so many people around Denver.

“She did more for people than some in this world have ever done,” Goeglein said. “She will live on in so many hearts.”

For Slaybaugh the loss is extremely tough because she would normally look to Guthrie for support when trying to deal with this kind of grief.

“I love you, I keep going on with my life and keep you with me for the rest of my life,” Slaybaugh said. “Every step I will take will be you.”

LINK: Colorado Young Leaders

Shawn Chitnis


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