On Saturday, I ran my first 5K. Well, I walked most and ran some of my first 5K. But this wasn’t just a 5K. It was a celebration. I called it “The Love Run.” Lemme explain. First, a little background.
Before we moved, my kids went to this amazing elementary school. In fact, it’s really more like a family than just a school. You join in and become part of this big family. #FernbankNation
When good things happen to someone in the family, they cheer for and celebrate that person. When bad things happen, they prop up the person in need and ask what they need and then bring it in droves and they make signs shaped like big hearts.
This is the sign that my son’s 1st grade class – led by the amazing Carol Reed – made me when I broke my leg. This is what I’m saying.
Carol is a force. She taught both of my children first grade and we have adored her ever since we met her. I am constantly amazed by her strength and grace and endless love for her students, her friends, and her family. The post I wrote HERE about Mac’s Party is the Christmas party at the Central Night Shelter that Carol hosts in honor of the memory of her son.
So it didn’t surprise me to learn that Carol had a major hand in Saturday’s 5K, called Ryan’s Run, in honor of the memory of the son of another school family member, Coach Katie Bashor.
Coach Bashor was not only my kids’ PE teacher, but also our neighbor when we lived in our old house. She and her husband Mark are the best people. They have run and grown the Central Night Shelter and their children grew up volunteering there. Katie taught my children kindness, sportsmanship, and competition, and instilled in M a love of running.
Katie’s son, Ryan, passed away way too soon this past August after a private battle with bipolar disorder. He didn’t tell anyone about this diagnosis.
Every June, there is a 5K run to benefit the Central Night Shelter – combining two of Katie’s favorite things: running and the Shelter. This year, two parents from the school and Carol organized the race and renamed it “Ryan’s Run,” to honor Ryan and the Bashors’ love and grace, and to show that no one suffering from mental illness should suffer alone. #letyourlightshine
M and I signed up to run. I know that I’m not in very good shape right now, but I knew that I wasn’t going to miss this for anything. Before the race, we gathered at the church that houses the shelter. I saw Katie and hugged her and she said she felt overwhelmed by the love and support surrounding her. I saw parents from the school, students – current and former – and teachers – current and former – all out to support Katie and her family and the Shelter.
M decided to run ahead of me, because she is WAY faster, and she ran with some friends. I started slowly, first walking, then running, then walking…you get the idea.
At every corner of the race course, there was a member of the #FernbankNation family – a teacher or a parent or a friend – with water or an encouraging cheer or a hug. At every turn, there was a huge dose of love. Because that’s what #FernbankNation does – they love on you and support you.
When I hit this point in the race – almost the finish line – I was walking with a dear friend of mine and she was feeling a little discouraged. We were hot, tired, and feeling our age a bit. I said to her, “This is the LOVE Run. Haven’t you noticed that there is love at every turn? Everywhere are folks who love each other and love us and love the Bashors.”
We ran it in – ran around the corner and through the finish line. Then we high-fived each other and hugged lots of people and got them all sweaty, too. (Katie’s husband, Mark, got a particularly wet, sweaty hug from me because M had just poured water on my head!)
This is what community is, people. It’s when people who love other people come together and lift them up.
Even though the kids no longer go to this school, I hope we’ll always be part of this family. It’s an honor to be part of this family. They’re the very best people, for real.
Mental illness touches every family and needs to not be a secret. Katie hopes another mother doesn’t have to tell her child good-bye for this reason. Let the people you love know that you love them and #letyourlightshine so that mental illness is no longer a stigma or something to be hidden.