Wow! Just wow! There are no words to describe how honored and humbled we were by the turnout at today's A Grace Filled 5K, but I will do my best to share our thanks in this blog.
It's hard to believe that the big day was finally here. We got up early (okay, early for us) so we could be on the course around 8 a.m. All three of us had our purple "A Grace Filled Journey 5K" shirts on, and we were ready to roll.
|Today's Grace-Filled 5K was just simply amazing.|
Although the race didn't start until 9, there was already a large crowd at the high school when we got there, and everyone wanted to say hi to Grace. It was awesome. She definitely enjoyed all the attention.
And I loved visiting with all the people, who came from all over to join us today. I told Kyle yesterday, I was going to have to look at it like it was our wedding weekend, where I wouldn't have a chance to talk to everyone, though I would have loved to. But we are SO grateful for everyone who joined us today.
|The princess definitely enjoyed all the attention today.|
As the race time drew near, the runners lined up first, followed by the walkers. Johnny and Emily made a few announcements and thank you, and said there were officially more than 750 signed up to participate all over the world. We ended up with participants in more than 22 states, the District of Columbia and five countries outside the United States. How awesome is that!
And before we knew it, the runners took off, started off by Ronald McDonald. Kyle had decided to man a booth selling car decals and raffle tickets, and Grace and I really intended to walk the one-mile course together. However, we just got to visiting with people, and decided to stay on the sidelines. It actually worked out better, so we could cheer for all the finishers and keep visiting with those who came to celebrate with us.
|Grace took a few moments to pose with the race directors!|
It didn't take long before some of the one-mile participants began arriving at the finish line, where Ronald McDonald was there to give high-fives. And we cheered as people (there were LOTS of them there today) continued to finish both courses. Some ran with their strollers, and others ran with their favorite pooches, but everyone had a really great time. Since we didn't walk the course, Grace and I parked near the finish line, and she loved waving to the runners as they went by.
|Race day selfie with all the runners in the background!|
One of the neatest parts of the race was when Dalton Tefteller crossed the line in his chair from Ainsley's Angels of America and pushed by his friend, Mitchell Beck. Ainsley's Angels of America provides the chance for those who aren't able to roll in running events all over the country, in honor of Ainsley Rossiter, who also battles INAD. I'm not sure there was a dry eye in the place when Mitchell pushed Dalton right over that finish line. It was amazing.
|Dalton and Mitchell posed with Grace after they finished the race.|
There was so much going on that day besides the race too. Our friends at WSMI did a live broadcast of their Sports Saturday show from our event, and there were fun things for kids to do too, like pose for photos with Ronald McDonald, balloon animals with Professor Longhair, a bounce house, face painting and kids games. There was also lunch provided by two local service organizations.
We also had a couple of special presentations in addition to the grand total. The local Prairieland Leathernecks Marine Corps organization donated $100, and one of their leaders, Rick Robbins, ran the course before the race even opened today. Then, Beckemeyer fifth grader Kamryn Kiper set up her table with woven rubber band bracelets, and she raised over $400 just today, and nearly depleted her bracelet supply. She's one of those most thoughtful people you will ever meet.
|Members of the Lincolnwood soccer team who participated in the race today.|
Earlier in the week, the Lincolnwood High School soccer coach texted Kyle to tell him he was bringing the entire team to the race, and they all wore their team shirts. We also had several families sign up to participate together, and I absolutely loved watching all the kids running to the finish line. In a way, it was bittersweet, knowing that Grace may never have a chance to run, but she certainly enjoyed every minute of today.
And we did too. Kyle and I have lived in Montgomery County nearly our entire lives, and have know first hand the generosity of this community. I have seen it time and time again. But until Grace was diagnosed with INAD, I had never seen it first hand. I continue to be blown away by the love and support we are shown each and every single day, especially today. It's a day that we won't soon forget. And special thanks to our friend, photographer James Ryan, for taking all the pictures today. It's hard for me not to be the one behind the camera, but I knew we were in good hands with James.
|Both of Grace's new cousins came for the race!|
It meant so much to me when people would stop us to ask if they could get their picture taken with Grace. She looked awfully cute in her purple shirt, number 1 race bib and a purple crown headband.
About an hour and a half after the race began, Johnny and Emily were there to announce a preliminary grand total, and we were so honored to have Dr. Paul Kotzbauer and four members of his lab there to participate in the race and accept the check. They have been working very hard to find a treatment for INAD, and it really means a lot they came to show their support today and meet some of those who are working very hard to raise money for the study.
The initial goal was to raise $10,000 at the race, and Johnny got a little teary when he presented a big check to Dr. Kotzbauer for $23,500. I have to admit, I got a little teary eyed too. Thanks to this amazing and generous community, our family has been able to raise more than $50,000 for this study, and I'm so excited to say that the fundraisers continue, even after the race.
|Big check presentation photo!|
As we joined Kyle's family for lunch, I pulled up Facebook on my phone for the very first time since the race started. I began to scroll through the posts, and every single one of them was from the race. People used #beatINAD and #gracefilled5K to share their photos from Hillsboro and around the world. It was awesome to see people joining together to #beatINAD.
There just aren't enough words to express our gratitude for today. Seeing a sea of purple shirts take off down Fairground Ave., I felt a few tears well up in my eyes and I stepped to the side to give Kyle a hug. Our little Grace is most definitely changing the world. It's not exactly in the way I imagined it would be, but her laugh and her smile have captured the hearts of everyone who knows her.
And together, we will all #beatINAD.