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Changed people.

When we started this journey we were a group of strangers connected only by one goal: to make a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer. Little did we know how much it would change our own lives…

This experience is unique. It is riddled with challenges, no day goes as planned, and sometimes the gas tank is punctured by debris… It’s dry, humid, hot, cold, dark, light and every kind of weather and temperature in between. Its roads with sweeping views of the ocean or the Grand Tetons ….and roads with no shoulder and fresh road kill. It’s relying on the generosity of those around you for food and shelter and being blessed beyond belief by their hospitality. It’s never giving up and enjoying the day for what it is. It’s not knowing exactly where you’re going (not sure we ever found desert county road G…) but it’s always 4k Ok. Its patience, kindness, and taking the time to listen. It’s sidestepping the rattlesnake to reach the mountaintop and the picturesque site that awaits you. It’s having an injury and discovering how awful walking is when you wish you could run. It’s realizing that no one can give you a single mile, you have to take them, earn them, and feel them… Its hearing someone else’s story and making it part of your own. It’s running each stride with the names of angels on your calves giving you wings. It’s a moment in time that drags on and flies by simultaneously. No one ever said it was going to be easy, they just said it would be worth it. It’s running across America. It’s the 4K for Cancer. It’s something I will never forget and will always treasure.

Reaching Baltimore was the end of our 42-day trip. It was the epic finale we had awaited with people gathered at the top of Federal Hill holding signs and cheering. But it also marked the start of the rest of our lives, through which we will always carry in our hearts the people we met, ran for, and by whom we were changed. As I said goodbye to my teammates we were already making planning for future visits and races. As we held up our 4K flags we held in our hands a symbol of something that doesn’t end when a team reaches 4,000 miles together. It’s a connection made by passionate people who became lifelong friends as they helped to create a support system across the nation.

I went to the store the day after I returned home, wearing a 4K shirt, and again was amazed by the reach of its influence. The cashier ask me if I had done the 4k and then teared up as she explained that her friend had been on one of the bike rides and another friend had passed away from cancer just the week before. She wiped her eyes and as I walked away I could just feel the invisible support represented by the 4K surround this lady and bring her comfort.

Team Portland biked 120 miles on August 3rd from Bend to Eugene stopping at a church about a half mile from my house! They were all in good spirits and it was really exciting to see them again (having met up with our team in Yuma, Colorado at the half way mark of each of our journeys). They only had about a week left and today finished their 70-day ride in Portland, Oregon. When I asked them if they thought 70 days was too long they said it was “too short”! Thus is the bonding that takes place on our teams…you get so comfortable with one another and learn to leave short bursts of annoyance on the roads…you learn how many times people sneeze in succession, what extreme food restrictions people are subjected to thanks to allergies/intolerances (to gluten, peanuts, apples etc), who drives way too fast and who not to sit by when you’re trying to sleep in the vans. You also learn who to go to when you need a comforting word, a listening ear or want to take a fun picture with a state sign. Your teammates become family and their craziness can make you smile on even the muddiest day or when the tire gets popped by a construction nail and you have a half marathon to run in the heat. You talk about everything from baby names to politics to why you should eat vegan. You never get bored when you have a different running partner every day and constantly changing scenery to enjoy!

When I think about the 4K the faces of people flash through my mind…

3 year old Kynlee and her courageous battle with leukemia…her mom as she watches her daughter fight…Pam as she lost 100 pounds and reclaimed her life through running…and then went on to run in memory of her friend who lost her life to colon cancer…Suzie who helps run Relay for Life and remembers the fear of being pregnant and watching her husband face cancer…Liam who stays at a Ronald McDonald house with his mom and two siblings as he tries to stay strong…the art gallery owner whose daughter Sofia has a prosthetic leg but is just so thankful for her life…Leslie who is biking across America as a cancer survivor…Victoria who pulled over to the side of the road and started to cry as she heard what we were doing…the lady who pulled over in Blue Rock and handed us a $10 donation…the young woman who pulled into Dunkin Donuts not having wanted to get up for the day and being changed by our chance meeting…running in memory of her friend Kimberley who at 42 passed away leaving a 12 year old son…

Laura who had leukemia at age 7 and was left with brittle bones but a strong heart…John whose mom has faced cancer three times and dad has struggled with alcoholism but is one of the most positive and determined people I know…Chris who lost his mom and ran for her every day…Janet whose coach passed away…Kate who lost her dad but carries on his spirit with every step…Maria who remembers her poppa with a smile…Stephanie who wishes she could remember her grandparents (who passed away from cancer before her birth)…Kathy who started to run and reinvented herself for God’s glory…Joey who can catch a ball while getting chemotherapy administered through an IV…Hines whose parents are doing everything to bring all children with cancer hope…Tori whose courage is contagious…a sister, Susan, who is gone but will never be forgotten…a teacher who lost his life to cancer but is remembered by his students everyday…

These are just some of the people we met. Some of the people for whom we ran. Some of the people who are affected by cancer. Representing just some of the pain and hope that our world holds. These are merely some of the stories that I will never forget. Some of the faces that will forever encourage me and remind me that the pain of running is temporary, empowering, and a privilege. Some of the reasons why I run and why the 4k has been such an honor to take part in.

Day#40 Running through Three States in One Day!

07.24.2014
Day #40: 180 team miles
Moundsville, West Virginia – Hancock, Maryland
Running Partner: Katie
 
2 more days until Baltimore!!!!!!!!!!! To support the cause please go to: http://www.4kforcancer.org/profiles/rebecca-eddy/  Thank you!!!
 
Today I dedicated my run to: Layne Madaris, Chuck, Tori and Hines. I also ran for Ray Gast and for Sharon. Layne Madaris is an amazing role model in one of my friend’s lives. Chuck is the husband of Mrs. Suzie, who I met at the church yesterday, and is a two time cancer survivor. Ray Gast passed away from cancer in December and was the amazing husband of a member of the church we stayed at last night. And Sharon was the awesome Pastor (from the church)’s sister who also passed away from cancer.   
 
Tori is an eleven year old girl that was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. I heard about her battle with cancer through Suzie. You can follow Tori’s journey and offer words of encouragement through her Facebook page, Team Tori: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-Tori/429250593874270
 
Suzie also told me about little 3 year old Hines who is battling cancer right now. *Hines David Rotriga, age 2, was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma on December 26, 2013. He lives in Wheeling, West Virginia which is near where we stayed last night. Follow Hope for Hines on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Hopeforhines/info

They are all in my thoughts and prayers as I run today and indefinitely. It’s horrific how many people have or have had cancer. And the sheer number of people who are affected besides the patients themselves: family, friends, neighbors, students, and so forth. The entire community is affected which is why programs like the 4K or Relay for Life that bring people together in support are so necessary. One of the neatest parts of the 4K has been having people share with me their own stories of how they have been affected by cancer; even people I have known for some time but never before saw an opportunity or felt comfortable to share. Cancer can be very hard to talk about and a very painful experience that affects different people in different ways. It can also be something that when shared is less of a burden on one’s heart. ❤

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Today Katie and I were paired together for the first time! It only took 40 days for us to be running buddies. 😛 Our first leg started in West Virginia and at some unmarked point turned into Pennsylvania. (Note: I love Pennsylvania!!! My birth state!!!) It was very flat and had a nice wide shoulder which we greatly appreciated. We were on team two but team one was running the same portion of this road so Danielle and Mae were running simultaneously. We passed by a huge yard full of tires (literally!) and through a cute little town called Triadelphia. (What a fun name. 🙂 However, the nice shoulders ended abruptly and we ran into construction forcing us to pick up two of the teams before they had finished their first 3 mile leg. We then regrouped and decided to head to some trails for safety. So the next portion of our run was in West Virginia in a park called “New Germany.” In New Germany there were a number of different trails of varying lengths and they were even rated by difficulty level for us. Though we tried to follow the purple trail we weren’t sure exactly how but we ended up doing some kind of weird crossover loop that included a pretty long incline in the grass. 😛 We ran 6.5 more miles there to make it 9.5 and then I walked 1.6 with some of the injured people (just for fun) and made it a 11.1 mile day. The trails were absolutely beautiful and very peaceful despite being slightly confusing! They went through a beautiful forest and were very green. There was also a lake right by the parking lot that was very lovely but was slightly too cold to be tempting enough to jump into. When everyone had finished their miles we headed to the host!

We are staying at the Hancock United Methodist Church in Hancock, Maryland. One of our teammates, Christina, arranged this through her great aunt so thanks to her for doing that! Several church ladies greeted us and took great care of us! They made us a delicious meal and directed us to a nearby pool that allowed us to take showers…well half of us. It had turned out that van 2 ran over some debris on the road which had punctured the van’s gas tank. Gas and oil proceeded to leak all over the highway and they had to pull over and call the police for help. Eventually they got the van towed and all the bags and food and people from both vans stuffed into one and they made it to the host – but it wasn’t easy! And we had to say goodbye to ole van 2. 😦 The important thing here being that everyone is safe and sound and we’ll be fine with three vans for the last two days. 

This evening we practiced our team cheer (which we do every morning before we have our dedication circle) and wrote in each other’s journals. Tomorrow’s the day we read them before running into Baltimore on Saturday. It’s crazy the end is so near! But it’s been 40 days and though it will be bittersweet we are all excited to run up Federal Hill and be able to say we ran across America! A fun fact we can use in get to know you games for the rest of our lives. 😛 And though this journey may be coming to an end I’m sure it will be the spark of many more adventures and but one chapter in each of our lives. Not to mention the fact that we will always have many lifelong friends/running buddies/people to visit all over the country and when Kenzie goes to El Salvador with the Peace Corps. – the world! 4K will always be a part of who we are from here on out. 🙂   

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Finally, I thought I would share an amazingly inspirational bit that was shared with me by a teammate. A guy named Ben submitted an entry to the Runner’s World Magazine Cover Picture Contest: http://covercontest.runnersworld.com/entry/1264/dsh1lgsbah7crrmbvj6fc4o4c0

In his entry he said: “Most people would think my biggest accomplishment is just the simple feat of running again after having my leg amputated due to cancer at 6, but it isn’t. I am a runner, so nothing is going to stop me from running. My biggest accomplishment is running an 8:15 mile after my leg amputation. I couldn’t even run an 8:15 mile before my amputation so the fact that my amputation hasn’t held me back and I am now faster than before is a huge deal for me.”

What an inspiration! 🙂 Hope everyone is well!!!

Day#39 Amazed by so many incredible people!

07.23.2014
Day #39: 140 team miles
Columbus, Ohio – Moundsville, West Virginia
Running Partner: Sydney, Sarah and Bree

Today turned out to be full of surprises! Though we had some setbacks, we met some AMAZING people and once again I am left in wonder at all the good in our world.

Today I have a number of dedications (as I will for the next couple of days) as we near the end of our journey across our beautiful nation. I dedicated my miles to Jenn, Brittany, Steve and Bree.

I dedicated my run today to Jenn Leininger, who at 24 years old, is fighting reoccurring thyroid cancer. She was my athletic trainer this past spring while I played lacrosse at Newberry College and is one of the kindest, most patient people I know! She is a super strong person and I know she will get through this. 🙂 Her sister has set up an account where you can buy a Team Jenn t-shirt to help with medical costs, just go to: booster.com/teamjenn. All funds raised will help pay for Jenn’s medical expenses! Thank you! 🙂

I also ran today in memory of Jenn’s friend, Brittany Disney, who passed away after a brave fight with cancer at age 23 this past Sunday. I would be wonderful if you would please keep her and Jenn and their family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you!  

Today most of the team, including myself, ran in honor of one of our own who had leukemia at age 7. Bree is now cancer free and inspiring others as she runs with us across the country but at one time she was a little girl with cancer and brittle bones because of her chemo treatments. It’s amazing how she was able to beat this deadly disease and now fights back! It was really cool to get to honor her and the strength and courage through which she carries through life. Thanks Bree for inspiring all of us every day!     

And last, but certainly not least, I dedicated today to Steve Ellis! Steve just finished his third (and hopefully final) round of reconciliation chemo! He has inspired his coworkers and friends at the Navigator Management Partner of Columbus office, who told us of his story at the dinner we attended yesterday, and now has inspired our team as well! Stay strong Steve, we’re thinking of you and keeping you in our prayers! *The dinner was a fundraiser for the James Cancer Center.

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After our 5am wake up our wonderful hosts (at Church of the Messiah) showered us with more food! They made so many wonderful things!!! Everything from gluten free muffins to piles of fresh blueberries and even breakfast pizzas! They have been so kind to us, so generous, and God’s love has definitely shown through them these past two days. They were even wiling to wake up super early to come run the first two miles of the day with us…in the rain! I just cannot even begin to express our gratitude! 

Running together was an unforgettable experience, we ran down a beautiful bike path, and I had the chance to meet the sweetest lady! Kathy told me about the church’s Run for God program. She said it began about three years ago with just 30-40 people participating and now has a crowd of 200 runners. Every year the program continues to attract more and more people and she said it has been an incredible experience! Many of these people had never run before but now train together and are going to run a 5K at the end of the program. They are training right now for a 5K in September, so if you’re in the Westerville area, I would definitely recommend going to cheer them on! 🙂 It’s always fun talking to someone who I definitely would never have met had I not joined the 4K and finding out how much we have in common! -> It was really cool because it turns out that Kathy’s daughter’s college roommate was from Eugene, Oregon (like me) and her daughter now lives in Spartanburg (South Carolina) which is about an hour from where I go to college. -> Kathy said that the Run for God program is held at many churches nationwide so when I get back to school I’m definitely going to see if there’s one in the area. If you’re reading this Kathy, know we are all there in spirit every step of the way and wish you all the best of luck with your training!      

For more information please check out: http://messiahumc.net/ministries/run-for-god

The mission of the program as told by their website: “Run for God is a ministry that uses running as a means to learn and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ while understanding the parallels of endurance running and enduring faith. Our mission is to prepare people to become better witnesses to Christ physically, mentally and spiritually. Programs provide practical training plans aimed at running either a 5K, 10K or Half-Marathon, but with a Christian focus. Although people run for many different reasons, these programs are for those who want to make God the center of their lives—or need to be reminded to do so. It is not a competition against others, but rather a personal challenge for each individual.”

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The next part of today’s adventure took place after we had all piled into the vans* to try to find the safe roads the leg leaders had looked at online. It turned out these roads were all closed due to construction…

*A note on the vans: Van 1= No-horn Bessie (pretty self explanatory, we remedied this by adding a cow bell to the passenger seat’s cup holder). Van 2= the Flat Tire Van thanks to a construction nail right outside of Boulder, Colorado. Van 3 = the only “good” van (since it’s had no problems so far). And the beloved Van 4 also known as “Scar” or “Dan’s Van” thanks to a day 1 incident in which the poor driver took a turn a little bit too tight (being used to driving a small car) and scraped against a fire hydrant, leaving a number of holes in the metal.

….So we did what 4K does best, stayed flexible and regrouped! We were parked by the loveliest old metal bridge over the Muskingum river. While we were waiting for Van 2 a lady saw the writing on our vans and pulled over to ask if we were accepting donations. She then gave us a ten dollar bill and headed on her way. What a sweet thing to do!  Van 2 finally found us (having gotten lost down a 10mph unpaved road heading in the wrong direction…) parked in the parking lot of the North Star Pizza and Ice Cream Shop in Blue Rock, Ohio.

Once we were all together we drove a bit more, looking for safe roads, but eventually decided to head to the host (First Christian Church in Moundsville) to complete our miles. My running buddy for the day was Sydney and we joined up with Sarah and Bree to run out and backs from the church. It was getting pretty hot and humid but after living in South Carolina during the summer, nothing really compares, so I felt fine. 😛 We ran along a pretty main street and in neighborhoods near Grand Vue park. Then the awesome wrestling coach from John Marshall high school (home of the Monarchs/whose mascot is a lion) allowed us to use the showers at their gym. It’s always so nice when people allow us to use their showers because there’s nothing like a good shower after  run!    

Dinner was provided by our hosts and was a fantastic feast! We had pasta, salad, bread and delicious desserts and they even made sure to have gluten free pasta and even brownies for our three gluten free teammates!  The First Christian Church, it turns out, is a huge supporter of the American Cancer Society and participates in Relay For Life. They have actually raised the most money of all the teams in town! Over $10,000 dollars to help in the fight against cancer! Which is absolutely fantastic!!! 

Also joining us for dinner was an amazing woman who works at Reynolds Hospital in Moundsville as an assistant physical therapist. She is very involved in the local Relay for Life and has taken a leadership role with the program. When she and her husband were around age 25, and she was pregnant with their son, her husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They worried he was going to die because that’s what they thought happens when you get cancer. Luckily he finished his last round of chemo right as their son was born but what stressful time that must have been! I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to act as a caregiver, at all, let alone while she was pregnant! What a strong and inspiring family! (Later her husband also had Melanoma so they are no strangers to the fight against this deadly disease.) And now Suzie has been helping with Relay for Life for over 8 years! What an amazing role model! She also told us how Relay has been a place where she has been able to meet others who have “been where I’ve been” and have gone through some of the same experiences and challenges.

Relay for Life is such a wonderful program and raises so much money for the American Cancer Society each year! I’ve done it with my church in Newberry for the past couple of years (though this past year I was unable to make the actual event) and I would highly encourage you to look into getting involved in your local area! Check out: http://www.relayforlife.org!

What a great day with some incredible people! Now it’s time to go find my sleeping bag. 🙂

 

Day#38 Connections

07.22.2014
Day #38: REST DAY
Columbus, Ohio

I can’t believe we only have 4 more days until we run into Baltimore!! And I am getting closer and closer to my fundraising goal of $4,500! But I need your help! If you are able and haven’t yet, please consider clicking on this link to donate: http://www.4kforcancer.org/profiles/rebecca-eddy/ – all of the money will go to help young adults with cancer through the Ulman Cancer Fund. 🙂 For all of you who have donated – THANK YOU!!! Hope everyone is well and having a great summer!

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Today was a very peaceful rest day. We hung around the Gathering Place (our host) and were treated to breakfast AND lunch by some of the wonderful members of the Church of the Messiah. 2aLater I walked down the main stretch of uptown Westerville, where the church is located, and even managed to find a magnet for my collection. 🙂 And….another exciting discovery of the day…we happened to be staying almost right next door to the Columbus Running Company!!!

Around 5:15 this afternoon it was time to head into Columbus to the Navigator Management Partners Office building where they were hosting a fundraiser dinner and silent auction to benefit the James Cancer Hospital (http://cancer.osu.edu/Pages/index.aspx) through Pelotonia.    

*Pelotonia, a not for profit organization, is a grassroots bike tour whose one goal is to end cancer. 5aIt raises millions of dollars each year for cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. It’s a three-day event that includes cycling, entertainment and volunteerism. The expenses of having the ride are covered by funding partners so that 100% of every dollar raised by riders goes directly to fund cancer research. Check it out at http://pelotonia.org/

The fundraiser dinner was delicious and included some absolutely amazing mac and cheese as well as a free funnel cake cart and games for the many children. 🙂 While there we had the chance to talk with a prominent leader at the James Cancer Hospital, who is participating in Pelotonia with his son, and has done so for the past years. It was very inspiring to hear about another group 6aof people’s efforts in the fight against cancer and so kind of the Navigator Management Partners to host us for dinner. It was also a special evening because we had a guest of our own, we got to hand out another scholarship! The recipient was a young woman (whose mother passed away from cancer) and is looking to attend college this fall. It was really cool to meet her and share our stories with her about the 4K.    

Another special part of the evening was finding out that an artist at Navigator Management Partners had created a mural on one of the walls in the office building in honor of the fight against 4acancer. When Team Portland (one of the bike teams that is also part of the 4K for Cancer who we met up with in Yuma, Colorado) visited in early June they had signed where the artist had painted a 4K for Cancer logo. He later added the 4K run symbol by which we all added our own signatures. What made us all pause however, was seeing Jamie Roberts signature up on the 1awall. Her team had been at this very place four days before she was killed by a truck while changing her tire on the side of the road. The people there remembered her…one lady remembered how Jamie had played with her son and all of the little children at the office and how her son had remembered and asked about her…another recalled meeting her and becoming Facebook friends with her and then learning of the tragedy… It’s hard to believe that she was here one day, in the exact same place that I stood, signing the exact same wall… And it makes me think of how precious life is and how amazing it was that Jamie has had an impact on so many people…even those she met for such a brief time period. Rest in peace Jamie…we run in honor and awe of you.     

Day#37 A Run to Remember

07.21.2014
Day #37: 122 team miles
Cincinnati – Columbus, Ohio
Running Partner: Mae (plus 2 extra run/hike with Patty, Sarah, Joe and Matt)

Today I ran in honor of Mrs. Sandy Scherrens, the wife of my college’s President, and an extremely courageous lady who inspires the entire Newberry community. She and her husband iare very supportive of Newberry College students, faculty and staff and are always attending different campus events. They often eat with the community in the school cafeteria and attend chapel on Wednesdays mornings. It’s amazing that they are so involved and even when facing cancer this couple stayed strong and carried on! 🙂  

 

 

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Once again Ohio’s roads were a challenge for our leg leaders…making it another trail day for the team! Our original plan was to run on the roads but due to safety we had to make a new one. We woke up at 4:30 to get on the road as soon as possible since this afternoon we have a serviceh project. On route we saw a beautiful sunrise and those of us who weren’t driving napped in the back of our 15-passenger vans. Anything is a bed on 4k…we usually sleep on floors (sometimes on sleeping pads – sometimes without in order to save time not having to roll it up in the morning) so sitting in the vans people sprawl out and with the rocking motion of the vehicle fall asleep quite often and quickly!

We went to Paint Creek Lake where there were two short trails: Little Pond Trail and Harmony Trail. Little Pond Trail was said to be a mile and a half but in reality was gabout 0.7 and Harmony Trail was 0.5mile. This meant that to get in our individual 10 miles we would have to do a bunch of loops or improvise. So though we did a number of loops around the trails most of our miles were in the form of an out and back on the roads heading out of the park. It was a very hilly route but beautiful nonetheless and we passed horses, fields and lovely family homes. We saw very few cars and only one friendly walker passing in the opposite direction. Mae and I had some great conversations about a wide variety of topics. The miles went quickly and though it was a cool day, by the end, we were all drenched in sweat from the humidity. As we waited for other groups to finish their miles Patty told us about a very picturesque spot so a few of us went off and added a two mile run/hike to our day. The river was lovely but crossing the bridge was definitely my favorite part! On each side were lovely views and soaring birds. 🙂

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As I ran I thought of all the people we run for each day. The people who we mention in the dedication circle ceremonies we have each morning and those we carry in our hearts. The people we are asked to run for by others, and the people we have personally watched battle cancer. Each of these people is an example of strength, courage and perseverance. As we run we can stop and any pain usually goes away. When someone has a life-threatening disease they don’t have this option. As we run for those who cannot, we are grateful for our health and the ability to do so. We also run with hope that even in the darkest of times, the support of those around them can help these people continue their courageous efforts. They may not realize it but they are the inspirational ones.

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When everyone had finished running we hopped into our vans and headed to Columbus where we went directly to the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. A very sweet lady met us, Meika, and fed us a delicious spaghetti lunch! She and another lady then gave us a tour of the house: it’s the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world! They had 82 rooms for families and recently bhave been working on adding about 40 more! My dad’s cousins live near Columbus and when their son had to have kidney surgery at the Children’s hospital they actually stayed at the Ronald McDonald House that we volunteered at today. Also one of our teammates who had cancer (when she was little) told us about having stayed at Ronald McDonald Houses a number of times when she was sick. They are such a blessing for so many families who otherwise might not be able to stay nearby their sick children.

The website (http://www.rmhc.org/ronald-mcdonald-house) describes the situation of many families who stay at Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide:

“Many families travel far from home and spend several weeks or months to get treatment for their seriously ill or injured children – a long time to be away or to divide a family. And, for children facing a serious medical crisis, nothing seems scarier than not having mom and dad close by for love and support. A Ronald McDonald House is that “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost.

Our Houses are built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child – not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest. We believe that when a child is hospitalized the love and support of family is as powerful as the strongest medicine prescribed.”

What an amazing program! Families are asked to donate $20 per night if they are able but no family is turned away for inability to pay. As we toured the house we saw many kitchens, laundry rooms, a music room, a game room, a fitness center and other facilities that are open 24/7 (since athey never know when families will be coming in and since no family has the same schedule with hospital appointments and such.) When we noticed how few people were physically present, though the house is often full to capacity, Meika told us how most of the time these families are at the hospital with their loved ones. The families who stay here are so courageous but though the decorations and accommodations are a lot of fun it doesn’t change how scary their situations are. What the house does do however it give them a chance to meet other families in similar situations, rest, stay near the hospital and find hope.

The Central Ohio Ronald McDonald House has many donors and sponsors who have made this special place possible and operable and it was such a joy to be able to contribute to their efforts today. We had been scheduled to help build the playground that is being constructed outside of the facility but due to safety (with the power tools and all) they found some other projects for us to work on. We helped build shelving units for the housekeeping rooms (where cleaning supplies and the like will be kept), organized some of these supplies and transported other materials to places where they are needed! It was very cool to get to do csomething for this place that helps so many families! After leaving I looked into Ronald McDonald Houses near my school in South Carolina and hopefully I’ll be able to go to the Columbia House and volunteer some time this fall! They are always in need of volunteers so if you have some free time in your schedule and would like to serve a meal or otherwise help out you might want to look into this cool opportunity to bring hope to families who are facing difficult situations. 🙂

3a One of the shelves we build using a rubber mallet and our hands. 🙂

After saying goodbye to the kind staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, we headed to the Church of the Messiah which is located right outside of Columbus in Westerville. We are staying at a building owned by the church which is called “the Gathering Place” and is absolutely Mawesome! Fun fact: my second cousins used to go to this church. 🙂 It has many couches, some cots and mattresses meaning that most of us will not have to blow up our sleeping pads for the next two nights!!! (Tomorrow is our last rest day so we’ll be here until we head out early Wednesday morning for Moundsville, West Virginia!)

Once we had arrived at our host, my dad’s amazing cousins, Rick, Michelle and their son Ben, came and took me out to dinner with my second cousin Spencer and my great Aunt and Uncle! We went to a place by the mall that was super delicious and it was a lot of fun to hear about their lives. They are all such intelligent people and have awesome careers! Also it was cool to hear how Ben got his black belt in taekwondo and writes his own comic book scripts!? I told him I can’t wait to get my autographed copy. 🙂 We got to sit outside and had a very lovely time, I’m so glad I got to see them all!

Heading back to the church I was just so grateful to have had a great meal and to get to sleep on a cot!!! AKA a REAL bed!!!! Such an exciting thing to have and something you are much more grateful for when you spend time without one.

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Finally, I wanted to share a letter from Team Portland, (one of the bike teams associated with our organization) to the Ulman Cancer Fund organization and to the 4K for cancer friends and family. We had a chance to meet Team Portland and even shared a host for a night in Yuma, WP_20140616_002Colorado. (They will be passing through my hometown, Eugene, Oregon when I will be there so I’m hoping to get to see them again.) They are a very strong group of people who suffered the horrific loss of a teammate early on in their journey. Jamie Roberts passed away from a terrible accident but will always be remembered as a courageous young woman who was dedicated to helping others. She is someone who inspires all of us to keep up the fight against cancer and will never be forgotten. Our team now runs in memory of her life and in honor of all those she rode for and inspired.

To read the letter please see this link: http://ulmanfund.org/a-letter-from-team-portland/