Several months ago I wrote a blog post about signing up to be matched as “runner” for a buddy that physically can’t. There is mutual encouragement from all parties involved that creates a community of support and awareness of disabilities of all types. Currently there are way more runners than people awaiting a runner, so the waiting list was tremendous – I started around number 1,600 on the list. I registered with a couple of other member of my Ragnar SoCal team and we patiently watched our position on the match list inch forward – week by week, month by month. Eventually we received our “you are in the top 300 email” and we were so excited. Once you are on the list or connected with the “I Run For Michael” Facebook page, you see posts (hundreds of them) daily between runners and buddies that warm your heart – and some that could leave you in tears. It truly is an amazing concept and community and it is growing faster than the founding volunteers ever could have imagined.
Finally, just a little over a week before Christmas, I received a message that I had been matched! I was still in bed early that morning and I had reached for my phone when the alarm went off. It was the first thing I saw and I jumped out of bed to see who I was matched with. It was so exciting. Because the buddies are usually children without their own Facebook accounts, most of the communication goes between their parent to the runner – so I was really linked to my buddy’s mom’s Facebook account. In many cases, the parent of the child needs support too and so it is a benefit all the way around. Anyway, I immediately saw my buddy, Brennan, in his mom’s Facebook profile photo and I just melted. He is an adorable kid! Shortly after his mom and I connected and Facebook “friended” each other, we shared our story and brief history on how we arrived in this unique connection.
Brennan suffered a traumatic brain injury during delivery that resulted in seizures, a stroke and cardiac arrest. It took 45 minutes and 12 shots of epinephrine to bring him back. He is truly a miracle kid! Now, 7 years old, he has mild left hemiplegia, hemophilia, and Sensory Processing Disorder with really high anxiety. He works really hard with a number of therapists and occupational therapists. He is really smart and soooo sweet natured. I love hearing about his day and it breaks my heart when I hear he struggled with anxiety.
I wanted to send Brennan a T-shirt with the I Run 4 logo that he can wear on race days (or whenever) so I found out his favorite colors, ordered the decal, and got it into the mail to him yesterday. I hope it arrives in time for the half marathon this Sunday but, if not, there will be many other opportunities to wear it! I also made one for myself that I will wear on Sunday. Unfortunately, the colors on mine don’t show up too well but it should be OK. It looks better in person than this photo shows!
But the best support is the interaction we have several times per week through Facebook – just little shout-outs to let him know about our running and to keep in touch. Brennan always writes back with support and he tells me about his day and what’s going on in his world. I have a new appreciation for parenting a child with special challenges now. I really need to be a bit less cranky with my own 3 kids and appreciate their health. It’s really all about a growing awareness of challenges others face and supporting them. Thinking about Brennan – and all children (and adults too) that face physical, mental and emotional challenges – when we go for a run is a great start in the right direction.
Brennan and his mom are part of a support group, CHASA, Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association, headquartered in Arlington, TX. Several of the children there also have runners in the I Run 4 group. They have scholarships to help families with many different things such as orthotics, special Olympics and a family retreat every year. I thought it would be neat to set up a page to fundraise for this organization as I run for Brennan. Haven’t quite figured out the details yet, but if you are interested in making a tax deductible donation to this group, here is the link for the page I created.