Archive | fundraising RSS feed for this section

Time In A Bubble

1 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 1 – Health Time Capsule: Pretend you’re making a time capsule of you and your health focus that won’t be opened until 2112. What’s in it? What would people think of it when they found it?

timecapsule

Sometimes, usually when I’m reminiscing about one of my grandparents, I wonder what the world was like a hundred years ago. In 1912, my maternal grandmother was nine years old. Cars were just starting to change the way people lived, and people were starting to realize that planes might be more than just a passing fad.

In 1912, the Republic of China was formed and the Titanic sank. Gene Kelly and Pope John Paul I were born, and the members of the Scott expedition to the South Pole died.

One hundred years ago, telephone communications happened over a party line and computers had not even been dreamed up. There was no such thing as a TV dinner. Indeed, there was no such thing as a TV.

It is very clear that the world was a completely different place back then. If you were to take my nine-year-old grandmother from that time and plunk her down in the middle of 2012, she wouldn’t have a clue what to do.

Now I cast my mind to the future, to the year 2112. What thoughts will the people then have about the way the world is today? What would I want them to think? What would I, the 42-year-old me who lives in 2012, want them to know about me and my life?

Maybe I should put together a time capsule, something that some random stranger can dig up a hundred years from now to get a glimpse into my life and the things that are important to me.

There would be photos, of course, a visual record of me and my family. Maybe a flash drive of family videos that the finder could watch – assuming, of course, that flash drive technology isn’t totally redundant by then.

I would include a pair of running shoes, and maybe one of my half-marathon finisher’s medals. I would print out a copy of my training plan, so whoever found the time capsule would know that I took my running seriously and tried to be healthy about it. They would know that I cared enough about my feet to use orthotics, that I ramped up my training in a way to avoid injury, and that running was my biggest stress-relieving tool.

There would, of course, be a lot of stuff about autism. A copy of George’s developmental assessment report and the autism awareness magnet that’s on my car. I would put in a copy of the very first “real” picture that George drew depicting a recognizable scene from a TV show. I would have to include one of George’s Mr. Potato Heads, along with a description of how this little character helped George’s development in so many ways. And what about a program from the biannual autism symposium? I could include one of my fundraising appeal letters for my autism runs.

Out of respect for my younger son, I would include a book about raising a child who is the sibling of a child with autism. I would throw in some of James’ artwork depicting him and George, and a leaflet about the autism centre’s sibling support program. I would want whoever found this to know that George’s autism didn’t only affect George, that we also had to make special consideration for his little brother.

And because James is an individual in his own right, I would include some stuff that’s just about him. A Lightning McQueen car. His soccer shoes. One of the T-shirts my mom has sent him from South Africa, that he always loves wearing.

Mental health is a big issue in my life. I would include some of the antidepressants I took a few years ago before the side effects scared me into stopping. I would print off some stats and information about post-partum depression – something that I suffered terribly from and that I still don’t think there’s enough awareness of. And maybe, just for fun, I would include one of my therapists’ bills. Whoever finds it can then gasp in astonishment and say, “Wow, they only paid that for therapy in 2012?”

Family is an important element in my life as well. My family, by their mere presence, enhance my physical and mental health. My husband’s support of my endeavours has an unquestionable affect on my stress levels and sense of wellbeing. So I would have to include a copy of my marriage certificate.

This time capsule is starting to get kind of full, and I haven’t even touched on some people in my life who would have to be represented, like my mom and my brother, and my best friend Jenny, and some other folks who form the fabric of my life.

I’m off to find a bigger box.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/2563369930/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Countdown

23 Feb

first halfmarathon medal

Three minutes… Will it begin? Or end?

I shift nervously from foot to foot as I look at the crowd around me. The vibe here is immense. I feel like the collective energy created by these twenty thousand people could lift me up and carry me. I have not slept for a week in anticipation of this day, but that does not matter. Standing here, it is impossible to feel tired.

Two and a half minutes… Will these 13.1 miles make me or break me?

It all started six months ago with an email. A local autism centre was entering a team into this race. Was I interested in joining, to raise funds for autism services? My first reaction was: You must be joking. At the time I was tipping the scales at almost two hundred pounds, which was a lot for a woman whose pre-pregnancy weight had been 130 pounds. I had let myself go to seed following the birth of my younger son. Exercise was a four-letter word to me. I found it impossible to lift myself out of the post-partum depression I was still suffering from for long enough to walk to the mailbox and back. And now these people wanted me to run a race?

Two minutes… Will this race be the fruition of all my efforts? Or will it make me slink back into depression?

I deleted the email, but its contents pulled at a thread in my mind. I was in very bad shape, both mentally and physically. It was clear that I needed some impetus to get myself sorted out. Could this be it? Did I finally have the right reason to get up and do something? Would this venture even be possible?

One and a half minutes… Will I have the strength to go the distance? Or will I give up and not finish the race?

I recovered the email from my Deleted Items folder. If I decided to join the team, I could choose a distance. I ruled out the marathon – it would definitely be too much. I considered the 5 kilometre run, but somehow this did not seem to be enough. If I was actually going to do this, I wanted it to be a real challenge. I’ve never been one for doing things in moderation. Either I don’t do it at all, or I go all out. Abruptly, I checked my thinking. Was I seriously thinking of attempting the half-marathon? Was I crazy?

One minute… Will this endeavour cement my newfound love of running? Or will it make me toss my running shoes into the back of the closet forever?

My thoughts drifted to my older son. My beautiful boy with autism, so loving and full of promise. He could go so far and accomplish so much, but he would need help along the way. He would need services and social supports and programs, all of which cost money. The autism centre was hoping to raise funds to finance exactly the kinds of programs that are needed by kids with autism. I could be doing this for my son.

Thirty seconds… Do we proactively give our kids the best possible chances to overcome their challenges? Or do we just sit back and hope for the best?

Just like that, the thread in my mind – the one that the email had been gently pulling at – unravelled. I knew what I had to do. I pulled out my calendar and looked up a few online training programs. I worked out that in six months, I just about had time to train for a half-marathon. I signed up and got to work. And now here I was at the start line, fifty pounds lighter, and although not exactly fleet of foot, at least capable of running for a couple of hours.

The starter’s siren goes off and the crowd surges forward. As I cross the start line, I put a picture of my son in my head and run from the heart.

(Postscript: I finished that first half-marathon in almost two and a half hours. I remember the lump in my throat as I crossed the finish line and the tears that sprang to my eyes when I received my finisher’s medal. Every step of that race was dedicated to my son. Since then, I have done two more half-marathons for autism, and this year I will be doing it again. In my three autism runs to date, I have raised about $1500 for the Geneva Centre for Autism. My sons – the child with autism and his loving, caring brother – are my inspiration. I would run to the ends of the earth for them.)

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Shauntelle challenged me with "Write a story that begins "Three minutes. Will it begin? Or end?"" and I challenged Head Ant with "Write a story that includes the following: a dreamcatcher; red high-heeled boots; a broken wine glass."

2011 – My Year In A Nutshell

27 Dec

January 2011

I start off the year on a good note. Tired and slightly hungover, I take part in the Resolution Run on New Years Day. With my wedding just four months away, I start to stress about the little details, like where to get married and where to hold the reception.

This month, I also donate blood for the first time  – at least, the first successful time. My inspiration is baby David, affectionately known as Captain Snuggles. Sadly, David dies just days later, at just 8 months old.

 

February 2011

We have a wedding venue and a minister! I will be getting married in the same church where both of my children were baptized into the Christian cult fellowship. My running has slowed down a little, because the stress of wedding planning has made me sick.

March 2011

We have a venue for our wedding reception! We almost booked the first place we looked at, but then we went to see the hall at the Royal Canadian Legion. They initially had the hall booked for our wedding day, but the other people have graciously agreed to move their event to the previous weekend. This means two things. First, we get to have our reception in a place that supports the veterans. And second, we now have all of the information we need to send out our wedding invitations.

This month is frantically busy. We have left most of our wedding planning to the last minute, so we have to book our DJ, our flowers, get a cake sorted, find someone to do my hair and makeup, and so much more.

April 2011

My wedding is on the last day of this month! Most things are organized, but my hairdresser and my makeup person have both bailed on me. While I dissolve into tears, my fiancé gets into the car and goes out for a drive. When he comes back, he tells me that the hair and makeup problem is all sorted out.

My soon-to-be brother-in-law introduces me to a wonderful lady, who agrees to be in charge of both of my boys for the day of the wedding. This is a very big deal for me. I worry about how my son with autism will cope with such a big day.

The big day arrives, and it goes perfectly! My hair and makeup look lovely, and the dress – made by my mother-in-law – is perfect. I marry the man I love, and everyone has a lovely time, including the kids.

May 2011

I spend time with my Mom, who has come for the wedding. We go shopping, we go for drives, we spend time with the kids, we chat and drink wine. It’s wonderful to have her with me.

One of the lowest lows of the year happens this month, with the unexpected death of our friend Ken, just days after our wedding. It is an honour to have had Ken and his wife at the wedding. It is good that we got to see him one last time. He will always be missed.

June 2011

My younger son James graduates from Kindergarten. I have a surreal kind of feeling as I watch my baby up there on stage, wearing his construction paper graduation cap, receiving his Kindergarten diploma. When he and his classmates start singing their songs, I just about die from the cuteness.

 

July 2011

I am having difficulty with my running. I struggle to find time, I am lacking motivation, and I am injured. I have missed the last two races I was registered for. On the plus side, the sporadic nature of my recent training does not appear to have affected my speed. There has not been any improvement in my performance, but there hasn’t been a noticeable decline either. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re struggling with something you usually love, you have to take what you can get.

August 2011

2011-08-25 11.19.19This month turns out to be unexpectedly busy. The big news is that my older son George graduates from his provincially funded autism intervention program. He has had two years of IBI followed by a year of the school stream program. His progress has been off the charts. He is ready for this graduation. I, on the other hand, am not. It represents a growing-up that I am just not ready for.

Things seem to be looking up with my running! I run two races this month, just a couple of weeks apart. My performance in the first isn’t great, but in the second, I do a lot better than expected.

September 2011

George turns 8, and I’m not really sure how this has happened. It seems like just yesterday that I held my tiny baby in my arms for the first time, and now he’s this long lanky boy who keeps growing out of his shoes.

My 2011 Run for Autism is three weeks away. I run a 10km race at the zoo and make a personal best time. The following morning, I go out for a long run in foul weather, and the day after that, I can barely walk. I feel good, though. I feel ready for the half-marathon.

October 2011

75738-1975-025f[1]The day has finally arrived: the race I have been training for all year. This is the reason I run – to raise funds for autism services, to make the world a better place for children and youth with autism and their families. I dedicate this race to my son George: my joy and my inspiration. If he can live every day with the challenges of autism, I can run a two-hour race.

It goes really, really well. I get a personal best time for the half-marathon and beat the 2:20:00 target that I’ve set for myself. What makes this day even more amazing is that I have done really well with my fundraising for this race, surpassing my combined total for the previous two years.

November 2011

I am insanely busy at work. I am on four projects, and I am also in charge of the month-end reporting for all of the projects in my department’s portfolio. I am enjoying the additional challenge that this gives me, and every month I am getting better at it.

I feel like I am starting to gain some traction in my writing. It is hard work, building up a blog following, and it’s an ongoing process. I am becoming quite prolific, though. I have my blog, I write for an ezine, I write for a project called World Moms Blog, that is growing very fast. I have been voted as one of the top 25 Canadian mom blogs, and people are starting to ask me to guest post for them. I have also resurrected the novel I started working on a couple of years ago.

I run another race at the end of the month, and demolish my previous personal best time. If I can do this after the difficult season I’ve had, what will I be capable of if I actually train? I ask my running friend Phaedra to be my coach for next year, and she agrees.

December 2011

As usual, my Christmas preparations are a last-minute frantic rush. Somehow, I get my shopping done on time and the day is a big success. We all weather the festive season with life and limb intact. It is a hard time for George, with all of the sounds and lights and people and busy-ness, but he gets through it.

On Christmas Day, James turns six. I feel a little weepy over the fact that my baby is no longer a baby. There is just something about the transition from 5 to 6.

Also on Christmas Day, I somehow manage to pinch a nerve in my back. It’s eerily reminiscent of 2 years ago, when the same thing happened. The incident in 2009 puts me out of action for two months, and I really hope this does not happen again.

The story continues in 2012. What script will I write for my life in the coming year?

Rain In My Running Shoes

3 Oct

I have never been one to let the weather stop me from running. While I prefer clear, cool conditions, I have been known to go out in the rain, wind and snow in order to rack up the miles on my running shoes. From time to time, the seemingly adverse weather conditions have worked to my advantage. It is amazing how refreshing a light shower of rain can be during a long run.

And so, when I woke up yesterday to the pitter-patter of raindrops against the window, I was not deterred. I had a long run planned, and nothing short of a meteor hitting my driveway would stop me. This was to be my last long run before my half-marathon on October 16th, so I really needed to get out there and get it done.

It was cold enough for me to abandon the running shorts in favour of my longer fall-weather running pants. I stuck to the short-sleeved tech shirt, but added a lightweight running jacket. Although the sun was not shining, I wore my hat: the peaked cap is a great way to keep rain out of my eyes. I stocked my fuel belt, cued my music, laced up my shoes, and hit the road for a 20km run.

Sometime during the second kilometre, I became aware that the gentle rain had intensified, and that raindrops were now hitting my face from the side, hard enough to feel like tiny little pellets. By the time I had completed 5km, I was running in a torrential downpour. The wind was buffeting me from side to side and I was wishing that I had brought my gloves. Worst of all, my socks were squelching inside my running shoes. I had to stop twice to pour water out of my shoes.

Still, I soldiered on. People driving by in their cars were looking at me with astonishment, as if to say, “You’re running in this?” I felt validated when, in the fifteenth kilometre or so, I saw a fellow runner braving the elements. It always helps to know that I’m not alone in my running insanity.

After more than two hours of running, I came to a stop in my driveway, having run my allotted 20km. My hands were so cold that I struggled to fish my front door key out of my pouch. Fortunately, my five-year-old son was waiting just inside the door for my return, so he spared me the necessity of actually having to unlock the door myself.

Twenty-four hours later, I am still hurting. My legs are chock-full of lactic acid, and my left ankle is aching. I feel as if I will never walk normally again (I will, of course, be fine by tomorrow).

There are those who wonder why I put myself through this, what possesses me to go out in dreadful weather conditions for the privilege of having sore legs for the next two days.

Part of it is the joy of the sport, the sense of freedom that comes with being out on the open road, the “Runners High”, and the sense of accomplishment when the run has been completed.

Part of it is that I don’t have a naturally fast metabolism like some people, and if I don’t stay active I fall out of shape very quickly. Running is the only form of exercise that really works for me.

The biggest part of it, though, is that I’m doing it for my kids. In two weeks, I am lacing up for my third annual Run for Autism. All funds that I can raise leading up to this event will go straight to the Geneva Centre for Autism, to be used for much-needed services for children and youth with autism.

It is services like the ones provided by the Geneva Centre that have helped my son achieve phenomenal things in the four years since he was diagnosed with autism. In order to see a continuation of the progress, we need a continuation of the funding. This facility really does help people with autism to touch the stars, while also providing support for their siblings and parents.

Ultiimately, I run so that I can do my own small part in making the world a better place for my children. I think that’s a pretty darned good reason to go running in the wind and the rain every now and then.

To sponsor me for my half-marathon, please visit my fundraising page. All sponsorships are being matched by a donor who wishes to remain anomymous, so any funds raised will be doubled!

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13013135@N00/5879848337. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Autism: Running To A Better Future

4 Sep

Running in the 2010 event - I want this one to be even better!

Six weeks to go…

As of today, I have precisely six weeks to do two things: first, to get myself into good enough physical shape to put in a half-decent showing at a half-marathon, and second, to raise a thousand bucks.

On October 16th, I will be participating in my third annual Run For Autism. I am joining the Charity Challenge at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon/Half-Marathon/5K. I will be running the half-marathon, any funds I can raise in sponsorships or donations will go directly to the Geneva Centre for Autism.

My stated goal on my fundraising page is $500, but I am really hoping to raise at least $1000.

There’s just one problem: I’m not really pushy enough to be a good fundraiser. I suffer from social anxiety, and I have a hard enough time talking to people about things in general. When I have the added pressure of asking for money, that makes things so much harder. So usually I send out fundraising emails to people who I think might be receptive to the idea of forking out a few dollars. While my fundraising efforts have, in the past, had reasonable enough results, I cannot help thinking that I would be better at this if I was just a different kind of person.

This year, I am trying to be more pushy assertive about making my sponsorship requests. I have sent out my fundraising email to people I actually know, and now I am appealing to you, the general Internet public, to consider sponsoring me for this run.

I would appreciate, and so would the children and youth with autism who would benefit from expanded services – services that can be a crucial part in helping people with autism become integral, economically active parts of their communities.

My son George, who is almost eight, would appreciate it. He has an entire future ahead of him, and the quality of that future could have a lot to do with the services he has access to now.

To sponsor me, please visit my fundraising page.

(That wasn’t too pushy, was it?)

(Photo credit to the author)

If He Can Do It, So Can I

15 Jun

Last night, my son George was upset. He was distressed for the entire evening, crying and looking at us sadly with tears escaping from his beautiful big blue eyes. I could tell that this wasn’t just a case of a kid being in a bad mood. Something specific was bugging him. I just didn’t know what it was.

It was heartbreaking. There was this child, my beautiful boy, clearly wanting or needing something, and he was not able to communicate what it was. It was not for lack of trying. He was making supreme efforts to find the words and get them out, but no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t understand.

In the end, George was just looking at me with an expression that told me he didn’t blame me for not getting it, that although he was sad, he was used to not being able to express himself, used to not being understood.

It was that look, the expression of resignation, that broke my heart. The idea that my child is already, at the age of 7, getting used to a life of hardship, just kills me. I guess this kind of acceptance has to happen sometime, because George’s life is never going to be the same as most other people’s, but still. It’s a difficult pill for a parent to swallow.

Moments like this strengthen my resolve where my running is concerned. On Sunday evening, I ran 14km on the treadmill. That’s a long way to run on a lab-rat machine, but really, I didn’t have any choice. Circumstances were such that it was the treadmill or nothing. And because I have a half-marathon a month from, now, I had to put in the distance.

Just because I deemed it necessary to run for 90 minutes on the treadmill, that doesn’t mean I liked it. It was very hard. The running part was OK. It was the mental resolve part that got me. Treadmill running is mind-numbingly dull, no matter what you do to try and distract yourself, and it took all of my self-discipline to keep going for the full distance.

Many of my long runs – even the ones I do on the open road – are tests more of my mental fortitude than my physical abilities. I know that I can run the distance. I have the base of physical fitness, and I have developed a running form that works for me. The mechanics of my body work just fine. The trouble is that my mind keeps trying to tell me that I’ve been running for a long time, and really, I should be getting tired by now. I have developed techniques to keep myself mentally strong during my runs. Playing music, thinking of things that are not running related, focusing on my body and how it feels as I run. The most effective technique I have, though, is this: all I have to do to keep going is think of the reason I’m doing it.

Every step I take, every aching muscle I endure, every toenail that I lose – it’s all for George. All of this training takes me closer to my Run For Autism, the event I use to raise funds for autism services to benefit my son and other people like him. Running for my child – what better motivation could there possibly be?

People sometimes ask me how I do it, how I go for all of those long runs and then, at the end of it, go out and race for thirteen miles.

For me, it’s easy. All I do is think of my boy. If he can live every day of his life with the challenges he faces, surely I can manage a two-hour run.

If he can do it, so can I. And he is my inspiration.

For details about my Run For Autism and how to support the cause, please visit my race page.

2011 Run For Autism – The Countdown Begins

3 Jun

I’m feeling fantastic today!

Actually, that’s not strictly true. I was awake all night with a sick child, who at some point during the process very generously shared his bug with me, as a result of which I am bone-tired and tossing my cookies. So in reality, I feel really, really rough. I feel like a hedgehog that just got dragged backwards through the business end of a lawnmower.

But despite my less than stellar physical condition, I am feeling good about some things that have happened this week.

First, I resumed early morning running. I’ve been a little out of it for a while, and a lot of my running has been done on the treadmill. But two days ago, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run before work. It was great. I felt the way I always do when go for early morning runs: alive, invigorated, positive about starting the day with an accomplishment. And since my route involves me running east over the Rouge Valley bridge, I get treated to the most spectacular sunrises. I mean, what’s not to love about all this?

Later that same day, I got a series of emails informing me that I am now officially registered for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. Which means that everything I do between now and then (everything running-related, anyway) is in preparation for that race. It is my annual Autism Run – the reason I got back into running two years ago. This will be my third year doing the run. In 2009, I finished in about 2 hours and 28 minutes. In 2010, I improved that time to 2:22:38, knocking more than six minutes off my time from the previous year. This year I want to do something even more spectacular, and break 2 hours.

That will be a tall order. Taking 22 minutes off a time over a distance of 13.1 miles? It’ll be tough. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

The other thing this all means is that I am now officially fundraising, enlisting people to sponsor me for the run, trying to gather together as much money as I can that will all go towards providing services for children and youth with autism.

I cannot stress how important this is. George’s progress since diagnosis has been off the charts, but this is no accident. It has taken many hours of hard work, buckets of tears, patience, IBI therapy, parent training, information sessions, and advice. George would not be where he is today if it weren’t for the Geneva Centre for Autism, who have provided services and training and all kinds of other resources.

I cannot help but think that if George continues to get services that evolve with his needs as he grows up, the sky will be the limit for him. This child is so loaded with potential, but he does need help and support to realize it. If funding dries up, so does my child’s future.

So I spent some time yesterday setting up my fundraising page. I have set my initial target at $500, but I am really hoping to surpass that and raise the target. Preferably more than once.

My call to action is this: if you have the financial means, please consider sponsoring me for my run. If you cannot afford it (and I totally get  that – life ain’t easy for many people right now), then please spread awareness about autism. Help spread the word that people with autism are a valuable part of our society.

And if you circulate the link to my fundraising page, that will be an added bonus as well.

I am excited about getting this show off the road and doing the best I can for my George, which means doing the best I can for my family, and for the community of autism.