It's been nearly three weeks since that amazing day, and we're sorry not to have written sooner. But it's taken this long for us to wrap our heads around that incredible, incredible morning on June 18th as crowds of people, both beloved friends and family as well as people we didn't yet know, came out for the inaugural 5K for Aidan J. Run/Walk event.
And what exactly did we witness?? Only a cozy gathering of almost 1,000 amazing kids and adults getting together to honor the memory of a certain special little boy whom we all miss dearly. A sunlit, thunder storm-free, relatively low humidity day was a miracle itself for the Philadelphia area, but it only got better from there.
The Opening Ceremonies started with the voice of the Phillies, Dan Baker, greeting the crowd. What an honor to have Dan take us through the day with that most recognizable of voices. And what a gentleman...
We were also treated to the upbeat sounds of Steve from WMMR and the MM-Army as well as the band, "Some Assembly Required." Voluntarily, they came, they set up, and they rocked, literally and figuratively. They are as kind as they are talented. Jordan, a student at Aidan's elementary school, sweetly and bravely sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to the kids and adults in the vast audience.
Relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even people we hardly know swarmed Kerr Park to volunteer their time and talents to make the day a smashing success. So many comments have been made since that day about our volunteers-- how incredibly, innately capable and friendly each and every one of them was as they learned the ropes for the first time.
Special mention should be made to our Executive Race Committee, the staff from Aidan's school, Brandywine Wallace Elementary, the Downingtown West Cheerleaders and Basketball team, and my colleagues from Penncrest High School, who just about took over - in a good way, of course! And special, special mention should be made of the Marple-Newtown Baseball team, who showed up in full regalia to help with the race. Marple-Newtown is the rival team of Penncrest Baseball. What a classy move by the kids to give up their summer league games to be there, and their coach, Steve Smith, for coordinating.
We got chills as the 5K Run kicked off. Three hundred runners drifted down the street after the starting horn rang out, and it was a moment that sealed the gift of that day for us-- to see so many people, young and once-young, running for Aidan, for our cause, and for hope for our family. It was a moment of awe for us. Plans coming to fruition; dreams becoming reality. Our little boy inspiring so many. Sigh... the pictures in our minds, we will never forget. Thank you, SO much, to all who were brave and ran in Aidan's honor.
So, check out the photo below-- we shut down Pennsylvania Ave.! Our race team from Run the Day expertly timed all participants and posted results online within the hour-- how cool is that?? We've gotten some feedback from some runners that the flat, shady trail was great to run, but that they wish the finish line was back in the park, where their families could welcome them. We're already working on that for next year-- we were lucky to get the street blocked for a few minutes this time around with very late notice as our registration numbers skyrocketed, and we thank Jack Law of Downingtown Public Works, Downingtown Police Chief James McGowan, Downingtown Fire Police Captain Carmen Semenza, and the Minquas Fire Station EMTs present on site under the direction of Jeff Gewertz for their support and staffing during our event.
While the run was taking place, kids and their parents were entertained by The Magic of Kevin Joyce and snacked on Phillies cookies and cupcakes decorated by Amy Mills of Knockout Cupcakes. Both Kevin and Amy donated their services for the event. Downingtown Wegmans, Boot Road Wawa, The Purple Picnic People, Westside Wellness Chiropractic, East Brandywine Fire Company, Allied Barton Security, Professional Duplicating, Inc., Taylor Rental, The T-Shirt Artist, King Bagel, Provision Productions, and Croppers of Guthriesville, also graciously donated incredible amounts of time, talent, products, and services to help make this event top-notch-- and succeeded by a million miles!
Next, it was time for the kids to have a turn at going fast as the Kids Races commenced in the outfield of the softball field at the park. What a blast! And all who ran received a winged-foot medal (Aidan's favorite medal from Good Neighbor Day dashes) hung from a regal red ribbon (Aidan's favorite color). It was so, so deeply touching to see Aidan's friends, classmates, neighbors, teammates, and cousins running down the field. Each of the age group races was both exciting and heartwarming to watch; it felt like Aidan was cheering his buds on from above, a huge, excited grin on his face. For many of the younger runners, we hope that their first experience in a race was thrilling enough to entice them back each June. We're fairly sure we caught a glimpse of some future running stars! Those kids were SUPER speedy! Congrats to all our First, Second, and Third place winners and to all who gave it their best shot!
We were honored to have Congressman Jim Gerlach from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senator Andy Dinniman from the PA Senate lend their legislative support to the cause, as well as Michele Snyder from the national organization, Parent Heart Watch (www.ParentHeartWatch.org), Josh Weisman from Simon's Fund in Lafayette Hill (www.SimonsFund.org), and Tony Morelli from Peter's Place in Radnor (www.PetersPlaceOnline.org) to represent the three agencies that our event primarily supported. They did a wonderful job reminding us why we were all there, teaching us about the prevalence of SCA, and compelling us to sign our children up for the October 22nd heart screening event that will be held at the Lionville YMCA (courtesy of Simon's Fund).
(If you're interested in registering your children, ages 5-18, for the October 22nd heart screening event, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your children's names and ages, and we'll get back to you regarding your registration.)
We gave out some awesome prizes for the raffle, thanks to Mitchell and Ness, The Philadelphia Phillies Organization, MLB.com, West Chester University Swim Program, Adventure Aquarium, Verizon FiOS, Penncrest Baseball Boosters, Bella Photography, and several other local vendors.
The raffle raised nearly $2,300 for a Josie Basta, the first-grader from our local Shamona Creek Elementary whose heart failed in October and has been replaced by a Berlin Heart machine while she waits for a transplant. Read more about Josie at http://cotaforjosieb.com/.
During the Awards Ceremony, prizes (which included Phillies tickets, gift certificates to the Chester County Running Store, Phillies T-Shirts, bobble heads, and baseball cards) were given to the youth and adult 5K race winners.
Finally, (yes, unfortunately, we mean finally, as time got away from us...) families hit the trail for the 5K Walk. To those families who participated in the walk, we thank you for your patience and determination to finish out the long (too long?) walk despite how far behind-schedule we got by that point. We've already made adjustments for next year for you: shortening the walk to 1 mile and having the walk take place along the paths in the park, to name a few. Thank you, thank you, for walking in Aidan's honor.
When all was said and done, we registered nearly 1,000 participants, had 100 volunteers pitch in, and raised over $35,000 in an effort to help end Sudden Cardiac Arrest in children. What an incredible start to our annual event!!!!!
And what a tremendous way to honor our Aidan, who loved to run, loved his Downingtown, and loved to spend time in the summer with his friends and family. He was most certainly pleased, looking down from above. So thank you to our amazing support system that is our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and community. You are our rocks. Love to you all. --Steve and Christy
SAVE THE DATE!!! The 5K for Aidan J. 2012 will be Saturday, June 9th. Mark your calendars and check back at www.5KforAidanJ.com or on this blog for more information.
Were you there, or did you contribute either online or via mail, and do you have suggestions or feedback? We'd love to hear from you so we can plan for next year. Email us at email@example.com.
Special, special, SPECIAL thanks to the amazingly talented, diligent, and well-networked members of our Executive Race Committee, for without you, this never, ever, ever would have happened (and definitely wouldn't have had such class!):
Scott and Melissa Marshall
Suzanne and David Akers
Carolyn and Ed Callahan
John and Bernadette Tracey
Mary and Craig Marshall
Special mention to Dave McDonald, Steve Kulp, Dennis McDonnell, Chris Keller, Jessica Anderson, Steve and Sue Mescanti, Chip Kriebel, Ralph Harrison, Eric Bucci, Sandy Carter, Dave Stango, Kate Groark Shields, Sean McKinney, Cathy Cornish, Kim Laverty, Kelly Hageluaer, Jim and Bill Monaghan, Jason Ritter, Kathy and Andrew Lovell, Maureen and Jack McGroarty, and Rich Scaricaciottoli. And to the many, many, many more of you who have also provided support via emotional, monetary, or comedic relief. Thank you.