Murder victim’s parents plan national campaign to encourage service to others

Parents of Jana Mackey start campaign

Event details

Eleven Hundred Torches campaign kickoff will be held Thursday at the Granada Theater, 1020 Mass.

A Silent auction begins at 7:30 p.m.; a campaign presentation will be at 9 p.m.; and music is planned from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.

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Jana Mackey’s parents were overwhelmed by the 1,100 people who attended their daughter’s July 9 funeral service. The 25-year-old Kansas University law student had been found murdered inside her ex-boyfriend’s Lawrence home six days earlier.

Her funeral at Liberty Hall had to be delayed by several minutes, as mourners lined Massachusetts Street waiting to get inside. The crowd was so large that dozens of people ended up sitting on the floor or standing at the back of the hall, 642 Mass.

It was the large number of people who came from across the country to pay tribute to Mackey that motivated her parents to create a national campaign, called Eleven Hundred Torches. The campaign is intended to inspire and encourage 1,100 people to find ways to serve others. The stories will be documented on a website,

“For us to find any meaning whatsoever in the whole chaotic mess, we had to come up with something positive,” said Christie Brungardt, Mackey’s mother. “We had to turn this horrendous event into something positive, because that’s what Jana would have done.”

Mackey’s parents, who live in Hays, haven’t been able to understand why their daughter was killed, but they hope the campaign — which kicks off Thursday in Lawrence — will help carry her legacy forward.

“We just believe that there’s got to be some meaning behind this horrible event,” said Curt Brungardt, Mackey’s stepfather.

The second-year law student was well-known for her civic service. She had been active in political campaigns, as a state lobbyist, and was a domestic violence and women’s rights advocate and volunteer in Lawrence. Every speaker at Mackey’s funeral mentioned her “fallen torch.”

“We had to pick up Jana’s torch,” Christie Brungardt said. “We couldn’t let Jana’s torch die with her.”

Forming the campaign, named for the comments and number of people at the funeral, has been bittersweet, Mackey’s parents said.

“This has been somewhat therapeutic, but on the other hand it is also a very painful thing to do,” said her mother. “It occupies your life, day and night.”

The man suspected in Mackey’s death fled to New Jersey, where he killed himself while in police custody. The Brungardts said they feel fortunate they won’t have to sit through a murder trial full of crime scene photographs or go to parole hearings for the rest of their lives.

A benefit kickoff for the campaign will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Granada Theater, 1020 Mass. The event, which ends at midnight, will include dancing and live music by The Michael Hamm Jazz Quartet and Yuca Roots, a Brazilian reggae band. A silent auction will raise money to take the campaign to a national level.

Several advocacy organizations will be on hand during the benefit, to help people find their own cause in making a difference in the world.

“As long as your purpose is to make a difference in other people’s lives, we want Jana to motivate you to do that,” Curt Brungardt said.