Happy Monday, folks!
While I’m not 100% sure what Mother Nature was doing in other parts of the United States, she was definitely giving us a dose of some beautiful sunshine that was a GLORIOUS break from the brisk, bitter Winter winds and snow that we have been knocking on our doorsteps the past couple of weeks.
This past Saturday marked the year anniversary of working from home for both my full time and part time jobs. It is insanely crazy to think that we have been doing it for 365 days.
And while 2020 was a year that included intense struggles and anxieties for many people regardless of where they were at in life (myself included), it was also a year that allowed me to take time for some very vital self-reflection.
And with that self-reflection, I was able to identify that I do not truly feel fulfilled in my life unless I am doing something to help others.
Combine helping others along with my passion for both running and pediatric cancer and that is how the 2021 Mr. Sunshine Miles 4 Smiles endeavor was born.
Running the equivalent of 50 full marathons (1,310 miles), raising $20,000 for The Conner M. Holland Foundation, and sending 2,000 cards to local pediatric cancer patients all across the world isn’t that big of an undertaking, right?
Why yes, I do in fact give you permission to call me crazy.
But this year’s project is so much more than running 1,310 miles, raising $20,000, and sending out 2,000 cards.
It is so much more than just lacing up the sneaks everyday.
“Your child has cancer.”
They are words that no parent or family should ever have to hear in their life, but they are ones that will be heard in the lives of approximately 175,000 children under the age of 14 who are diagnosed every year.
They are words that will cause any family to fall apart at the seams as struggle to figure out how to cope with a world that has just been turned upside down for them.
These are words that Kevin and Sheryl Holland heard about their son Conner that brought havoc, pain, and suffering into their lives.
When I first met the Holland family through the facet of our church pairing up with their organization, I felt an immediate connection. I can’t really explain the energy I felt, but it would be something along the lines of a divine intervention. I was in the final months of my 1K for 10K journey with raising funds for pediatric cancer research, so it felt like our paths were meant to cross. I got a chance to sit down with the entire family, but also Conner’s mom, Sheryl for some one-on-one time to learn more about Conner, his story, and also the family’s struggle throughout his diagnosis and how they work to keep his spirit alive.
Right around Christmas break in 2009, Sheryl and Kevin started to notice random bruises on Conner’s body along with what looked like random bug bites on his chest. In addition, they kept continuing to notice how tired he was. They made an appointment to see the doctor and were ordered to get bloodwork. And in the matter of just a few weeks, he was confirmed to have Leukemia. The dreaded words of “your child has cancer” was becoming a harsh reality.
They endured turmoil and multiple treatments at Hershey Medical and CHOP. They even had renewed hope when it seemed the chemotherapy treatments were working! However, after contracting a cold and virus that had to be treated, it eventually forced the chemotherapy treatments to no longer be effective and Conner lost his battle on September 4, 2011.
“Your child has cancer.”
While they are not words that I have experienced personally in my life or the life of my family members, they are words that I think about every day when I set out to pound pavement and clock miles.
They are words that I hope will one day be erased from the vocabulary of communicative language that we use with each other.
They are words that will continue to push me forward during my moments of exhaustion and wanting to give up when the wind blows in my face and my legs feel like jello.
They are words that I say over and over to myself as I tie the laces on my sneakers prior to setting out for every run I clock on this journey.
They are words that I say to myself in the middle of my run as I look down at the bracelet I wear around my wrist that says, “Conner. Little man, big fighter.”
They are words that I say after my run as I untie the laces on my sneakers to keep me grounded in why I run and will continue to run.
I run for those who can’t.
I run for those who are currently fighting for their lives.
I run for those who have lost their lives in the battle.
I run for those who just had the words “your child had cancer” become a reality.
I run for the families who are struggling to find hope.
I run for Conner. Little man, big fighter.
I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that 2020 was a pretty crappy year.
Well, to be completely honest, it was a pretty shitty year in several respects…and it was full of darkness.
Darkness that has attempted to engulf us in our community and our world.
This year’s Miles 4 Smiles campaign is about ALL OF US joining together in the mission to inspire and to spread love and light in this world.
In just this past week alone, I have been able to witness that love and light through the generosity of so many individuals. That generosity was to the tune of over $1,800 in donations…in just 7 days.
And officially surpassing the 1/4 mark of the overall goal.
Needless to say that I was overcome with emotion and tears in my eyes like a little baby multiple times .
I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t nervous about having such ambitious goals and launching this project right after such a roller coaster year.
Not only does this year’s endeavor raise the mileage goal from 2019 1K for 10K project by 310, but it also doubles the amount of funds I want to raise by 12/31/21. It also adds the element of mailing 2,000 cards to pediatric cancer patients.
Once again, I give you permission to call me crazy.
Miles 4 Smiles is a group effort between all walks of life to give back and keep hope, love, and kindness alive in a world that so desperately needs it.
It is about helping these families navigate and cope with the words “Your child has cancer” that has turned to life upside down.
It is about keeping Conner’s spirit alive with every single mile.
It is about showing the darkness that hangs around us that we can in fact fight back with light.
It is about looking inside ourselves and realizing that we each have the power to change the world.
We will, we have, and WE ARE changing the world one mile and smile at a time.
2020 was a shitty year.
But I’ll be damned if I let 2021 get the best of me.
Sprinkle sunshine always,