Thursday, August 31, 2017

Grateful For Our Little Village

I've always liked the African proverb, "it takes a village to raise a child," but I really didn't know how true it was until we welcomed Grace into our family nearly six years ago.  Since then, our little village has shown us such love and support in our quest to #beatINAD.

As we count down the days to the second A Grace-Filled Journey 5K and one-mile fun run and walk, I think about all the people who have stepped up to join our little village time and time again.  Our last race drew over 700 participants in more than 20 states and several foreign countries, raising $25,000 for INAD research at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Celebrating that we got to color our whole map purple!
This year, while we want to continue to raise fundraising dollars for Dr. Paul Kotzbauer's work, we also want to continue to raise awareness. With only 50 known cases worldwide, we don't want INAD to be something that falls through the cracks. We want to keep telling everyone we meet why we will never give up our fight.

I now own more than a dozen (probably closer to two dozen) different Grace T-shirts, and I wear them all on a regular basis.  Last month, I was wearing my purple Volley for Grace shirt that said "Beat INAD" at the top. A salesclerk in a store stopped to ask me what INAD stood for. Her name was Dani, and she said that her brother often called her INAD, since it was her name backward, and she had never seen it before. I told her a little bit about our story, and before I knew it, she became one of our followers on Facebook. 

Something as simple as wearing a shirt helps to raise awareness each and every day, and I can't tell you what it means to us when we see people out and about wearing a Grace shirt or a gracelet, and knowing that someone is thinking of us and remembering Grace in their prayers.

As we started to make plans for this year's race, I got the idea that it might be fun to try and see if we could get participants in all 50 states. Two years ago, we got nearly halfway there, without really even trying. I shared the idea with Kyle, Johnny and Emily, who all thought it would be a great way to raise more awareness. When the online registration officially opened, we made a very large map of the United States, and colored states purple as they got signed up for the race. We also made weekly update videos, giving progress of our goal.

Virtual packets ready to be mailed out
The first weekend of August, we filmed the video at my alma mater, the University of Missouri in Columbia with 25 states to go. I have to admit I was a little skeptical that we would be able to pull off finding someone to join us from all 50 states, especially since we had so many left in the northeastern part of the country. 

But never one to back down from a challenge, we continued our search, humbled as people we didn't even know began to share our posts, tagging friends and family they knew in other states. One by one, we began to whittle down the list, leaving only Vermont as the last holdout.  I can't tell you how many people would send me messages to tell me they asked friends in this state or that state, and the excitement truly began to grow. We even managed to pick up a runner in Vermont.

Race packets!
So, here we are, with less than one week until this year's fundraiser. More than 500 from all over the country, and in five foreign countries (Japan, Thailand, Canada, England and Australia) will be walking or running on Saturday to raise awareness for INAD. We are so incredibly humbled that our little village continues to step up to the plate and join our Grace-Filled Journey.

Six years ago, I never knew what kind of village it would take to raise Grace, but I can't think of a better place than Montgomery County to call home.


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