This is a guest blog written by our friend, Kendal Elvidge.
I have a lot of fond memories from the Lincolnwood High School gym; games, dances, graduation and banquets all still resonate with me to this day. But it’s the memory of a recent conversation that sticks in my mind these days.
Shortly after a Lancer basketball game this past fall, I was walking around the court making idle conversation with fans when I met my good friend Kyle Herschelman at center court. Our conversation started as all conversations do, I made a joke about screening who we let into the building or a cracked about Kyle’s always fashionable bow tie. Kyle not to be out done fired back with his own quick wit, probably something to the effect of; I can’t believe they actually hired you or you still work here.
It was the typically quick wit thrown between friends that only friends can value. After the warm introduction we turned our focus to the results of the game and our quick analysis. As the conversation came to end we gave other parting shots and I started to walk away.
Just then Kyle said “before you go…." and all the sudden our conversation became very real. Kyle began to inform me of Grace’s condition, the diagnosis they had received, and the long term prognosis.
For only the second time in recent memory I found myself speechless, at a loss for words. I mean really, what do you say to a friend that just told you his daughter has been diagnosed with one of the rarest neurological disorders in the world?
Stunned to my core I said the only thing I could think of, “We are here for you; whatever you need.” At that point I didn’t know what that meant, but thanks to the perspective of a four-year-old, today I have a better idea of what that statement means.
|The Elvidges get ready to take off in the marathon relay event in Champaign on April 25.|
A few weeks after our gym conversation, the Herschelman family joined us and some other family friends at our house for New Year’s Eve. I was a little nervous as I didn’t know how to explain to my daughter Peyton, who was four at the time, about Grace’s condition. I didn’t know how to explain that she couldn’t talk, walk, or play like her other friends.
As most parents probably are, I was nervous about Peyton asking a question like typical kids do, bluntly. However like a lot of things in life I was over thinking things. The night went as smooth as a night of toddlers, pre-k’ers, and exhausted parents clinging to their youth waiting for the ball to drop could have expected.
The kids played, adults talked and good times were had. Peyton brought Grace stuffed animals and books and showed her just about every toy she had. As the night ended, we loaded sleepy, melting down kids (and parents) into cars and said our goodbyes I breathed a sigh of relief that things went as well as they did.
|The back of the shirts say, "Today I run for Grace."|
Then a moment of true perspective was washed over me. My wife, Katie told me that while putting Peyton down for bed Peyton said to her, “I know Grace had fun. She smiled at me a lot.” It was the perspective of a four-year-old that brought me vision of what those words I said to Kyle truly meant.
Being there for whatever they need simply means being the friends we always have been. It means treating Grace like the vibrant, beautiful little girl she is and not a diagnosis. Grace is a child who gets cranky and tired, she smiles when she is happy and cries when she is sad. Supporting Kyle and Mary simply means being friends who bring joy to their family, trying to create as many positives as we can during this difficult time.
Fast forward several months, and that is exactly what the people of Montgomery County have done for Grace and her family. Hordes of strangers, mere acquaintances, some close friends and family have brought joy to this family in what has to be the most trying time of their life. It seems like everywhere you look coaches and student athletes, schools, clubs and organizations are hosting events, bringing gifts, raising money and embracing a Grace filled journey.
Grace has thrown out pitches at softball and baseball games, been crowned a queen, and been, through bright eyes and a beautiful smile, the inspiration of many. She has made more public appearances in the last five months than her father Kyle has made in a lifetime.
People have rallied around this incredible family and have turned Grace into a social butterfly. With all that has been done for them, and will continue to be done for them, it’s hard to find a way to make our own unique impact.
But then my brother and sister-in-law came up with an idea and we ran with it, literally. Back in July, they came up with the wild idea of running the marathon relay run in Champaign. My wife and I agreed to the idea, probably not thinking we would actually do it, but really liked the idea of thinking we could.
Then Grace’s story came out and we found the inspiration to make the relay a reality. We decided to dedicate our run to a special little girl. After months of training and preparing for the big day my wife, brother, sister-in-law, and I, dressed in purple shirts that read “Today I run for Grace” on the back, took Champaign-Urbana by storm. Unfortunately, for us an actual storm decided to hit Champaign-Urbana as well.
While we embraced the cold and rain, the race was cut short and we only completed three-fourths of our run. However, we knew at the end of the day we did something that would bring joy to the Herschelman family.
|This is Grace with her medal from the Elvidges.|
Our purple shirts garnered attention from other runners who wanted to know Grace’s story. We brought home medals, not just for ourselves, but one for her as well and we also brought home a hope that this little girl will inspire others the way she has us.
I currently have two 5Ks this summer, possibly the Big Dawg challenge with Kyle, the 5k for Grace in September, a half-marathon in October, and the half-marathon next spring back in Champaign that I am looking to run. I started running mostly for the exercise and stress relief. The more I ran, the more I began to enjoy the individualized, you and the road, mentality of running.
But now, I have a purple shirt and the inspiration of Grace as added motivation. It’s a simple gesture, but if I can spread the word of Grace and bring smiles to the Herschelman family, I know it’s a gesture that is appreciated.
Much like a four-year-old and her stuffed animals, I know Grace appreciates it because she smiles a lot. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, if you walk or run get out there for a vibrant and beautiful little girl, who is an inspiration and truly puts life into clear perspective.
I would like to thank Kyle and Mary for letting me contribute to their blog. As parents, citizens of Montgomery County, and dear friends they are a true inspiration.
I would also like to thank Mizzy Tischkau for, not only the shirts, but for donating the cost of the shirts to INAD research, such an amazing gesture of generosity.