Run for Chandler

Run for Chandler

If things had gone differently, Chandler would have been where Charli and I were this morning.

Six years ago, she and I did our first 5k together. Today we did our third. Today’s race held a whole new meaning.

Each year, our community hosts the Dove Dash benefiting Ryan’s Reach, an organization dedicated to helping individuals who have suffered brain injuries and providing support for their families. One of the specific beneficiaries of the funds raised by the Dove Dash is High Hopes, the first non-profit charitable brain-injury rehabilitation program in the country. My friend Tracey Desmond and her husband Mark are the owners and champions of High Hopes where the most determined, persistent, courageous people come every day to work toward their recovery from brain injury. My friend Tracey had told me that when Chandler got out of the hospital, he could come to High Hopes every day.

Along the race route were people in wheel chairs providing encouragement and inspiration. Chandler would have been one of them, cheering everyone on. Or maybe he would have tried to sneak into the crowd and wheel himself along.

Less than halfway through, I was regretting my decision to wear a thermal undershirt and running pants. My abhorrence for being cold got the best of me at 7 am when I got dressed. What was I thinking? It’s Southern California in September!

I run some, but I’m not a hardcore runner. I don’t do long distances due to knee issues (and also because I hate to run long distances), so my goal was to run the race, keep pace with my Run playlist, and cross the finish line. Every time I hit a hill and started to lose steam, I reminded myself how grateful I am to be able to run and I told myself – you can do this for Chandler…if he is watching, he is proud of you.

As I turned toward the last leg of the race and saw the balloon arch over the finish line, I kicked it in gear and sprinted to the end.

Walking through the booths of local businesses set up after the finish line, I felt a wave of gratitude. I love our community so much. I have felt their love and support since December 15.

So many of these places have been part of my journey, before and after. Club Pilates introduced me to the Reformer, and it was love at first try. HotWorx has been so good to me and allows me to work out 100% on my schedule and get double the workout in half the time. Amp Sports Fitness has gotten Charli back on the soccer field after injuries in record time and worked the kinks out for both Chip and me. LocoCycle – yep, I’ve done that too.

Then there was the High Hopes booth. I hugged Tracey and Mark and met Brett Hickman and his mom Patty. He is a long-time friend of High Hopes with his own story of brain injury. Dressed to the nines, he told me how he is finishing up a book and plans to speak to young people about staying away from drugs. I asked if that is part of his story. It is.

To be honest, I wish I didn’t have this deeply personal connection to High Hopes. I wish I could admire them from afar. I wish I still had the vantage point of seeing brain injury as something out there that happens to other people. But my life and my family have been rocked to our core, changed forever, by brain injury.

Thank you, God, for legs that can run swiftly, lungs that can breathe deeply, and arms that can hug tightly. Thank you for my community. Thank you for the opportunity to support such worthy causes as Ryan’s Reach and High Hopes…..

To run for Chandler.

Amen.

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