|Stephanie with her son, Cole|
For many years, the thrill of the race was my reason. I competed because it was something I enjoyed, something I could be successful at, and something I was proud of. The reason I ran was to improve, compete, and win.
|Stroller Warriors at the 2012 Jacksonville Run For The Warriors|
My running club Stroller Warriors has taught me even more reasons to run. These military spouses team up and use race goals as a vehicle for charitable fundraising. Over the past couple years, we have raced and supported a myriad of organizations, including Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the Semper Fi Fund, Organization for Autism Research, C.U.R.E Epilepsy, the Onslow County Homeless Shelter, Toys for Tots, Christmas Cheer, Bubba’s Belly Run, and one of our most treasured organizations, Hope For The Warriors®! These organizations all have different purposes, but one common theme: they support individuals facing a great obstacle.
Hope For The Warriors® embodies that theme. This amazing organization promotes awareness, understanding, and respect for the sacrifices military families have made in the midst of ongoing wars. Through their race, the Run For The Warriors®, participants show their support for the wounded warriors by teaming up and racing together, whether they're walking, running, or handcycling.
This cause hits home with my family for various reasons. My husband Brian has served in the United States Marine Corps for 15 years and completed five deployments, fighting alongside warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan who have given their lives or experienced life-altering injuries. These experiences resonate deep in your soul and never leave you.
|Father and son enjoy a run together|
Our son Cole faces obstacles that mirror some of these wounded warriors. Cole possesses a genetic motor neuron disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (http://www.fsma.org/). This disease causes his muscles to be weak and atrophied. Cole is unable to walk independently. But don't let that fool you. He's a go-getter and nothing stops him! As a result, he's made great strides with physical therapy and continues to gain strength. I can see how hard it is for him just to climb onto the couch or crawl up the stairs, but he wills it to happen.
At the young age of 3, Cole possesses the competitive spirit that the Run For The Warriors® embodies. As I watch those hand cyclists line up every year at the start, I can't help but wonder if one day Cole will join them. And then I see the runners and walkers line up behind them and I hope that perhaps one day he will join them too. I see hope in these wounded warriors, their families, and racers. They refuse to give up in the face of incredible challenges that might break many. Instead, they dream and persevere.
I listed a lot of reasons why I have ran over the years, but now I run for the most meaningful reason of all. I run in honor of Cole and all individuals that yearn to walk or run themselves. I run because I realize it is an ability not to be taken for granted. I run because I want to emulate the courage and strength they exhibit. And I'm very blessed to not run alone. I have the amazing Stroller Warriors at my side.
Running is mentally taxing and does not come easy to everyone. But what if you have something so powerful in your mind that you can't let your body fail? When we run to honor, every step seems lighter. Just contemplating all they achieve even under great strains incites you to vow, "I can do more too." By running, raising money, and supporting their cause, we help uplift and inspire them to forge ahead. We cannot and will not let them down. And in turn, they inspire us, tenfold. The fact is, Stroller Warriors LOVE running for a reason.
|Dee Urbina and Amanda Courtney at the 2012 Run For The Warriors|
Amanda Courtney, a loyal member of Stroller Warriors since our inception in 2010, launched our fundraising effort earlier this year for the Run For The Warriors®. This is the fourth consecutive year that our club has participated, Amanda’s second year coordinating the team, and for many of our membership, it will be their longest race to date. We appreciate this opportunity to reach those achievements right here within our local community. We want to extend a big thank you to the race staff for bringing this amazing event to Jacksonville and also to Amanda Courtney for uniting the Stroller Warriors team to support and promote this worthy cause.
Finally, to all the service members, wounded warriors, and military families who we have the honor to run with...thank you for giving us a reason
Register for the Jacksonville Run For The Warriors®
Stephanie Geraghty was named the 2012 Marine Corps Spouse of the Year. She is the founder and coordinator of Stroller Warriors, a free running club for military spouses and their family members. Their mission is to help military families around the world live happier, healthier lives through fitness, friendship, leadership, goal-setting, networking, fundraising, and community service. They currently have nine chapters worldwide and their goal is to reach every major military installation in the country. Prospective members can learn more at www.strollerwarriors.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.