I have been given a tremendous opportunity to do something this year that literally could be life changing. Is it scary? Do I have doubts? Of course I do. I have them because this opportunity will require me to stretch and, in many ways, step out of my comfort zone. Sometimes our greatest moments of clarity and growth happen when we take a risk; when we choose to act! That growth is even better when the choices we make and the actions we take are to benefit others.
Early last summer I read a post about a running relay across America for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). My mother has lived with MS for the past 37 years so this was something that naturally intrigued me. The relay team consists of 18 runners. Each runner spends six or seven consecutive days running, on average, 180 miles over those days. The purpose of the relay is to raise awareness and money for MS research and to help those living with the disease. In addition to completing their segment each runner is responsible for raising $10,000.
I contemplated doing the relay for a few weeks and discussed it on runs with some of my closest friends. We have the same mindset when it comes to running so I wasn’t surprised when they were supportive. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t share the same type of enthusiasm. Like most moms, even though I am a middle aged adult, she still worries – A lot! When I finished my interview for becoming a member of the team and told her I thought it went well her exact words were, “Oh, crap!” Despite her initial concerns she is now very excited about it and I plan to cross the finish line with her – running!!
For me, the fundraising seemed to be the most daunting aspect of being part of the relay team. Sure, training for and eventually running 180 miles in seven days is no joke. However, to raise that kind of money would really cause me to do things that not only have I never done before but that I was also uncomfortable doing. I don’t like to ask for things and especially money. In fact, when I was growing up and in scouts I hated when it was popcorn selling time. Knowing I’d have to ring someone’s doorbell and ask them to purchase a bucket of popcorn from me would cause me to have a full blown panic attack. I would do anything to get out of it. This was going to be much bigger than asking someone to purchase a $3 bucket of popcorn. Yes, I’m old and that’s probably what it cost back then 🙂
So far it’s early in the process and I’m happy to say that we are actually doing quite well. I say we because it’s not me that’s raising this money but rather a pretty amazing community of people. I have been beyond moved by the amazing generosity of people in my community. I have seen that generosity not only in dear friends but also from complete strangers. The process thus far has been enlightening to say the least. As expected, it has caused me to have to do things I’m not entirely comfortable doing but with that has also come some unexpected growth. That is a good thing. However, all of that isn’t the objective of this post. One of the things that I firmly believe is that, as with any worthy cause, educating and creating awareness is probably the single most important thing you can do. If you can bring awareness to something it will eventually lead to unprecedented discoveries. Through education and awareness it will touch people and cause them to act by sharing their time, talents and resources.
I have been fortunate enough to find MS Runs the US and become part of this year’s team to help raise funds and awareness. I have met the people behind the organization and they are some of the truest and most genuine people I have the good fortune of knowing. Ashley Schnieder founded MS Runs the US and actually ran across the country by herself in 2010! Since then she has created the relay team and in 2016 it will be traversing the country for the 4th time. Ashley and her husband Aaron are the real deal. They have a deep passion for this mission and it shows in their actions. They truly are people driven by their faith and are using their talents and gifts to help rid the world of MS.
I also was fortunate enough to meet Ashley’s Mom, Jill, when I ran as part of Team Jill at the Brewers Mini marathon this past September. Jill is Ashley’s inspiration for the relay. MS has affected Jill in many ways and has stolen much from her but she is undaunted by that. While we were running she told me that, “God has blessed me with MS.” Stop reading and let that statement sink in a little bit; “God has blessed me with MS.” How many of us would be thankful and feel blessed if we had a life altering, disabling disease? I know there are days when something as minor as a blister on my toe from running will irritate me; and I’m the one that chose to run which caused it! If only we could all be as convicted and at peace with our own circumstances in life. The world would surely be a better place.
I was very moved by Jill’s comments that day and to be honest, still am. Those words have replayed in my mind countless times since that day. What a testimony of faith. God has blessed me… Shouldn’t we all – wouldn’t it be great – if we all could have that attitude and outlook on many of the not only big but even trivial things that we are presented with in our daily lives? Jill went on to share that if it weren’t for her having MS the relay wouldn’t have been created. She is glad the relay exists and and hopes it makes a difference in ending MS.
Recently, for one night, actually for just a few hours, I experienced just one of the symptoms that my Mom and so many others with MS experience on a regular, if not daily, basis. Out of the blue I became very dizzy and couldn’t maintain my balance. I felt like I was in a fog and no matter what I did I couldn’t make my body do what I wanted it to. Needless to say, it prevented me from carrying out my plans that evening. I literally couldn’t function. It really gave me a new perspective on just one of the many things MS takes away from those it affects; something that I just take for granted.
I am now even more determined to bring awareness and do what I can to help those living with MS and find a cure. I am in awe and have the utmost respect for my Mom, Jill and anyone suffering from MS. As part of this journey I plan to share, through this blog, the stories of those living with and affected by MS. By sharing their challenges as well as their triumphs I hope it helps raise awareness in the fight to help us eradicate this disease. I will also share how training is going as well as my experience during the week of the relay. The more I can write and bring awareness to people living with and being affected by MS then maybe, just maybe it will touch someone and help make a difference. If you or someone you know that has MS wants to share their story please let me know. I’d like to help you or them do that. To see how things are going with the relay follow my blog and visit my relay page at www.tinyurl.com/curtfightsms.
Be Great! Be Strong! Be Determined!
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