Saturday was Relay For Life. I am sure most of you have heard of that, but if you haven't, it's an amazing 12 hour event that raises money for The American Cancer Society (my employer!). I have been part of Relay for several years, before I started working for ACS. My old workplace has a team at one of the events, so I went to support them, to support ACS and my coworker Emily, and to support my dad, a cancer survivor.
If you've never been to one, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. The event is to celebrate cancer survivors and caregivers, and to honor loved ones. It is held on a track, and attendees are encouraged to walk laps throughout the 12 hours, dedicating laps to those affected by cancer. Also, each team has a table set up and sells different goodies, all to go toward their team fundraising goal. It's a really amazing event.
One of the best parts of Relay For Life is the survivor's lap, right at the start. There is an opening ceremony with speakers. Yesterday, the speakers were the mayor of the town and the Chief of Police. They were both great-and inspiring! Then, they asked the caregivers to start walking, and had the survivors start on the other side of the track. We met half way and walked together the rest of the way. This was vitally important to me this year because my dad was there as a survivor, and I was there to represent my family as his caregiver. It was so awesome to watch him walk the lap in his survivor t shirt, and to see the smile on his face when we met halfway. He, and the other survivors, are what this event is all about. To say I was proud is an understatement. I was proud, moved, inspired, and encouraged.
I don't ever forget that my dad has cancer. It crosses my mind several times a day, especially because of my line of work. But sometimes, because he's doing so well, I push it back a little. But every three months, when he has his checkups, I go through the anxiety all over again. I worry what they will find. We've been lucky, and he's been fighting hard, but that doesn't take away the fear. So events like Relay are important- they show that we are fighting back, that we won't give up until there is a cure.
I spent the rest of the day walking around with Tom, hanging out with my former coworkers, and helping the ACS staff partner and her volunteers with general day of duties. I probably walked about 2 miles with all the laps I did, and was on my feet for most of the day. Needless to say, I was pretty tired afterwards. But so, so glad that I went.
|My Dad and I walking together.|
To find a Relay for Life event near you, go here: http://www.relayforlife.org/
Today I got to be part of something great. I volunteered for the Girls on the Run 5k in Ypsilanti. (I later found out that there was another 5k much closer to me, but I somehow signed up for this one- oh well). I actually originally wanted to be a coach- which requires you to meet once a week with a group of 5-10 girls in 3rd-5th grades and coach them on running, positivity, self esteem, etc. But I decided to hold off, because I do not consider myself a runner. I thought it would be a little contradictory to be coaching girls on running when I myself can't run very long or well.
So, I chose the next best option: volunteering at the event. These girls and their coaches have worked hard for about two months on preparing for this 5k. For many of them, it was their first 5k ever. Some had parents or siblings running with them, some ran side by side with their coaches, others with teammates...and some girls got lost in the pack and were running solo.
My volunteer role was course marshal. Which, I have to say, was pretty awesome. It meant I got to wear a neon green vest, I got a backpack full of sidewalk chalk to write encouraging messages, and I had supplies on me like band aids and wipes in case any girls fell. My station was pretty close to the finish line. After the girls passed me they literally had one more turn, and then they were at the finish line. The road where I was stationed was pretty beat up with potholes, and I was terrified that a girl was going to twist her ankle or fall. Thankfully, no one did.
They began running at 9am, and lo and behold at 9:18 the first girl came running by me. I couldn't believe it. She was probably 10 or 11 and finished three full miles in 18 minutes. It takes me about 15 minutes to do one mile, to put that into perspective. For the next 20/30 minutes, girls came running in at a pretty steady pace. It was so cute- they each were decked out in different outfits. Tutus, wings, princess crowns, etc. Most of them had red faces as they ran by. I had the awesome job of telling them that they were almost there- and they'd look at me, smile, and start to run faster. It was so cool to see that and to be their final push.
I have a special place in my heart for the last wave of girls. Most of them were walking, trying so hard to keep it up and start jogging. They were more spread apart, some all by themselves. One girl in particular came turning the corner with a bright red face, breathing heavily. I told her she was almost done and she yelled "I"M GOING TO DIE!". I assured her she wasn't, and she ran to the finish line. I waited and waited, not wanting any girl to be alone on the course. Finally, I saw the last girl. She had pigtails, glasses, and a half hearted smile on her face. I gave her my water bottle that I hadn't opened, put my arm around her and walked her into the finish line.
It was seriously so cool. I've cheered on runners before at 5k's and half marathons, but this was different. These girls were so young, and to see them run with smiles on their faces (okay, there were a few with tears) was awesome. I was inspired. It made me want to start running. I kept thinking that if they can do it, so can I.
Next year, I really am thinking I'll be a coach. I can only imagine the pride the coaches felt to watch each of their girls cross the finish line. The relationships they build are strong.
To learn more about Girls On The Run, visit their site here: http://www.girlsontherun.org/