In 2006 I was pretty excited about going on vacation to Hawaii. I had never been and it was the first big trip we were able to take with our daughter. It didn’t turn out quite like I hoped. While attempting to body board the waves, I got caught at the top and was body slammed on the bottom of the ocean. It resulted in me tearing my brachial plexus and injuring my spine at the C6. That led to months and months of rehab and was physically and mentally painful for me and my family. From the minute I got the feeling back in my leg I vowed to never take my mobility for granted again.
The doctors in Hawaii had me go straight home and see the spine doctor. I eventually had full use of everything but my left arm. I don’t know how to explain it but after the accident, once I realized I could move my legs, I has the urge to run. I yearning I had never had. I had run a little but I had become a bit overweight and the responsibilities of having a child and a growing business had put exercise at the bottom of the list. It moved to the top. I vowed to do two things. One, go back and thank the lifeguard that saved my life. And two, to run a marathon. I did both. I went back 2 years later and thanked the man that pulled me out. I’ve run 35 plus marathons. But its so much more than running marathons. Marathons measure, the daily running is the journey.
Plain and simple, running changed my life. I lost 50 lbs. I met new friends for the first time since college. I had more energy and a better attitude. So much energy I started blogging. This traumatic injury change my life and myself from ordinary to something special. It forced me to run and running brought all the things I was missing in my life.
One of the things it brought me was Dr. Jeremy Henrichs. Jeremy joined our running group because he was looking for the same thing as many of us. To meet some people and help him get into better shape. Anything is much easier when there are people waiting for you each day. Dr. Henrichs and I became good friends. One day he asked me if I would like to go with him on a mission trip. While I am spiritual, I don’t talk about it much because its very personal. I want people to find what makes them happy. I can tell you that finding God has made me a better person but I have trouble telling others what they should do. I can only tell your what makes me happy and hope that you find yours.
The mission trip took us to Iten, Kenya. Dr. Henrichs is one of the team doctors for the University of Illinois and in sports medicine. He chose Iten as the location because it is the Mecca of marathon running in the world. It’s amazing that a town of 4000 people has dozens of Olympic champions, world record holders. There is a big arch over the town as you enter that says “Home of Champions”. While there are many champions there are also thousands of runners that will never be champions. Ironically the 200th fastest person in this town would be one of the top 20 runners in the US. So much that the person that came in 40th in the local race won the Boston Marathon a few years later. Despite all that, most never get a chance to become champions. They live and run and dream.
Running is the world to the people of Iten Kenya. Running helped change my life and they hope that it will do the same. It was that feeling that brought me together with the people of Iten. Like most of Kenya they are surrounded by poverty. There is really no opportunity other than running and farming. But they have one great asset in town. A good hospital. Actually they have Dr. Gastro Mugala. He is an amazing person that runs the hospital and has turned this small town hospital into one of the best hospitals for 200 miles. He has secured a million dollar X-ray machine from GE. He opened up a new dialysis clinic and retinal clinic. All things we take for granted here in the US but are greatly lacking in Kenya everywhere but the big cities. We realized that working with Dr. Mugala we can get things done. So what needs done?
It starts with medical care. Why not work on medical care in the US? We are talking two different levels of medical care. We take of quality of care in the US. We are talking about the POSSIBILITY of care in Kenya. It doesn’t even exist. We are trying to bring it but having doctors come in for a few weeks a year doesn’t lead to anything that lasts. The doctors need to train other doctors. Work with the Universities to bring in training students. Teach them and hope that they eventually move on to these local hospitals. But to bring in the teachers from around the world we have to have places for them to stay. Rural Kenya still consists of huts or houses that are generally not acceptable to most 1st world countries. We have to have a few places with running water, hot water, and septic. Again, things we take for granted but are not there in most cases.
We also work with the children. Everyone is Kenya seems to have an orphanage. It’s their primary way of raising money. If you talk to person in Kenya the first thing they want you to do is see their orphanage. They know that people can’t resist giving money to kids. They certainly need the money but we have chosen to work with the schools. The schools often board the orphans and any child that wants an education. And it is not very expensive. Of course, the schools in Iten are known for having the best child runners in the world. The grade school in Iten could probably beat any high school team in Cross Country in the US. They are so widely known that Addidas even sends them shoes. But they are severely lacking in money for books, school equipment. The soccer ball I saw was made of tightly wound up plastic bags made into a ball. A soccer ball is just not something they can go buy at War-Mart. There isn’t even a supermarket for food, let alone sports equipment.
So I have decided that Iten is where I am going to give back. I feel like I was brought there. It’s where life guided me. I have worked hard, been fortunate, and now its time for me to give back. I will be giving my time and my money to trying to help others that rely on running to give them hope. It gave me hope and my goal is to give some hope back. I am not going to change the world but I am going to change the world for a few people . I won’t be running a special race or trying to accomplish some feat in exchange for a simple donation. I am asking you to donate because its the first time I’ve asked for anything for the domaining community. I have never asked because all of you have given me so much. I have made friends, made extra money that allowed me to do special things, and after 10 years I’ve become a part of the small group we call domain investors. But I will have to raise money help to accomplish our goals. A little goes a long way.
We buy used medical equipment or ask the providers to give a big discount. A simple soccer ball can be had for $15 but it will give a group of 100 kids thousands of hours of enjoyment. Building a dorm will allow hundreds of teachers to come and train doctors that will heal tens of thousand of people. I am not giving it to some big organization that will pay its directors six figures. Our group is called Running the Race. We are a non profit that is primarily made up of doctors (I think I’m the only non medial person on the board) and there are no salaries. The money you donate will go for everything from coloring books and crayons to medical equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. I realize this doesn’t hit home like all the other organizations that help others. But a human being is a human being, regardless of skin color or where they live. Helping doesn’t have borders.
I will be traveling to Iten in January for another mission and will be flying straight to NamesCon when we’re done. I missed NamesCon last year because of my trip to Kenya. This year I am flying back to personally thank everyone that helps in my mission. Anyone amount is appreciated and it is tax deductible. Of course you’ll read all about it here or on our site Running2Win.org. Click on the photo below if you’d like to donate. Thank you