It is hard to truly put into words my experience over the weekend. Running the NYC Marathon for Team Hole in the Wall has now secured it’s place among the top life-changing experiences that I encountered. I have followed the “goings-on” of this camp for several years now and have been touched by the stories and excited about the mission. I even considered changing my career path completely to apply for a job at Camp Painted Turtle a few years ago. I have never been good at fundraising, so I did not take on this cause lightly. And while my fundraising will never be called spectacular, running for this team has made an incredible impact on me.
This place, this amazing place. This place where children go to escape the day to day elements of their pain and suffering and become regular kids. Where they meet children like them, who truly understand what they are going through. Where they are treated with love, respect, and share laughter, tears, and if not physical healing, at least a sense of mental healing from their anguish. The amazing support the families receive, both during camp and in the months and years that follow. This place, this amazing place.
And I, but for a brief few hours, became a part of this amazing place. I became one with the people who spend their life’s work with these children. These incredible individuals whose passion and dedication is evident in everything they do. They are mission focused, love and laughter, to help kids with serious illness. I can think of no better purpose than this….
The Hole in the Wall Gang Executive Director, Jimmy Canton, shared his favorite quote with our team:
“This is the true joy in life … being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one … being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy … I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing on to future generations.”–George Bernard Shaw
This quote stuck with me through every mile of the marathon. For in every small twinge of pain, for in every moment of mental cloudiness, I returned my thoughts to camp. I kept my mind focused on the child whom we “met” through the camp DVD. This child, whose life was changed so profoundly by HITWGC that when he passed away, he declared it, “passing through the hole in the wall.” It is this image that I cannot, even two days later, remove from my mind. This child, who found joy and peace through a week at camp, and support and love as he passed through the hole in the wall to his death. How can one not be changed forever by this image?
In a moment of star-struck awe we listened as Mr. Newman spoke to us and gave us the encouragement to “raise hell”. For that was his goal when he founded the camp 20 years ago, to build a place where children could laugh and raise a little hell. For all children deserve these opportunities regardless of their health. A child on the inside is joyous, brilliant, beautiful, strong, resilient, and hopeful no matter what the body is doing to take away that joy. Camp allows these children to be all of the things they are and should be able to be. What the body takes away, camp gives back.
Usually after a marathon, I pick apart the mile splits and discuss how I felt at what mile and how I could have changed this or that. I usually beat myself up for a slow time or for not pushing hard enough. But this is not like that. Running this race, running in this town, running for these children was the best, most exhilerating marathon I have ever run and I will not soon, nor perhaps ever, be able to replicate an experience such as this. The race course was certainly not easy but with millions of fans shouting my name and with each shout, I remembered that name was written above the name of my TEAM. Every time someone passed me, they were able to see the names of the generous benefactors that helped me support the cause of a child. They are the true heroes, for I simply had to run a marathon, they had to part with their material worth to help a child with serious illness.
I hope that I can continue to be an ambassador for this camp, for these children. I have felt as though a new mission has been created within me. That somewhere God has stirred my heart to take strong look at my ability to advocate for these children, to be a part of this camp in a greater way. Perhaps, it is residual glow from the experience of this race and these amazing people. Perhaps, it is exhaustion that has yet to be refreshed manifesting itself into a desire to be something different. Perhaps it is the still, small voice calling through the hole in the wall. Regardless of its origin, I can only hope that as the days away from this experience grow longer, that I will not soon forget its impact, nor ever forget these kids.