This journey, unbeknownst to me started in August of 2009. Heather Keen and Catherine Pacifici approached me as the new VP of Ways and Means for the New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club with a fundraising idea. “Let’s organize a 5k!” I loved the idea and even more thought it would be something new and refreshing, but once my duties started it took a back seat and there wasn’t much time to give it another thought. As my year was over I relayed the idea to Kim Rothman, the new VP of Ways and Means. She too thought it was interesting, but again it got put on the back burner.
In the Spring of 2010 I met new neighbors Lt. Col. Ty Edwards, his wife Anna and their children. I came to learn that Lt. Col. Edwards was a Veteran of the war and while on a mission in Afghanistan was ambushed and shot in the head. He shouldn’t be alive, but he survived. Prior to his accident he was a tri-athlete. I told him I was a runner and we started to chat about racing. I told him my dream of one day having the courage to do a Tri. Then, he promptly turned around and was gone. Anna, said “Oh I bet he went to get his book.” I assumed he was a reader and getting back to something. Next thing he was back outside with a stack of books on Triathlons in his lap and he says to me “Here, take these I will no longer be needing them” You see Lt. Col. Edwards is still in a wheelchair working really hard to be able to walk again. I walked away with a large lump in my throat, but more than anything I walked away with big dose of inspiration. I knew that the torch had been passed and I HAD to do a Triathlon and soon. So the training began and I completed two over the course of that Summer. I had conversations with Ty and Anna about charities that work with Veterans that could use the help of New Tampa Juniors. I knew somehow I wanted to honor him. I just didn’t know how!
Fast forward to February 2011, while looking online at children’s books I stumbled onto the book, The Long Run by Matt Long. I still can’t really recall how I found it. None the less, to say I was captivated was an understatement. It’s an amazing inspirational story about a New York City Firefighter who was a runner and tri-athlete that was hit and run over by a charter bus. He shouldn’t have survived, but he did and the book chronicles his journey to recovery and how he was able to hit the road running again. The entire time I read this book I couldn’t help but see many parallels to what I always imagined Lt. Col. Edwards had gone through on his road to recovery. I was so inspired by this book I started to tell all my friends about the amazing story and then it led me to a foundation that Matt Long created, the I WILL Foundation. Their mission is to help people overcome challenges caused by life altering injuries or illnesses. I loved and believed in what they were doing and the inspiring stories of hope on their site. I searched for a race thinking that I really wanted to compete in one that benefited the foundation, but my search turned up empty.
That next morning started like any other, I went straight to the coffee pot and as I walked away from the kitchen with my cup of energy it hit me like a bus (no pun intended.) Lt. Col. Edwards, 5k, VA Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center, The Long Run, I WILL Foundation.
This is it!!! New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club – I WILL Run. It’s perfect! We have Moffit and James A Haley VA Hospital just a few miles from our community. How many people right here in our own backyard could use a little inspiration and something to lift their spirits. I immediately called Catherine Pacifici and said “I have an idea. Tell me if you think I’m crazy!” Thank goodness she didn’t and so our dream was born. Over the next couple of weeks we hashed out some preliminary plans and ideas. I knew that I had to have Matt Long on board. I wanted to share his story with all of our soon to be new friends. Fortunately for us he agreed that we can use his story and the “I WILL” run grew wings and started to take off.
So here we are. Two ladies. Lots of Motivation. A Big Dream. Zero Experience in Race Planning. Did I mention BIG DREAMS!