Last year when I met former Notre Dame football player Pat Fallon, I was introduced to the Kids Shouldn’t Have Cancer Foundation. As a mother of two, this foundation, and the founder’s story, has found a special place in my heart. Fellow contributing writer, George Bashura, and I would like to share with you a little more about the foundation and the gala they are having this Saturday night.
A child is a precious gift of innocence. They have their whole life in front of them, places to explore, friends to make, sleep overs, and a life full of challenges. That list should be followed but, the life full of challenges should not include fighting cancer as a kid. A kid with cancer gets robbed of that innocence and has to grow up much faster than a kid his/her age. Instead of getting acquainted with kids on the playground, they are making relationships with doctors, nurses and lab technicians. This is not what a childhood should consist of.
As a parent of an eleven-year-old daughter who is healthy, I can’t imagine, nor do I want to think about what this must be like. I am truly blessed to have a platform to try to do something to help. Through Facebook, you see kids that get an opportunity to meet ND Football players, coaches and get on the field experiences as part of different groups who try to take the stress of dealing with cancer on a daily basis. The problem with those opportunities is that the cancer remains after the experience is had and then it’s back to the daily battle of trying to beat that awful disease.
Back in 2016, I was introduced to KidsShouldntHaveCancer.org. The introduction came from a book written by Lisa Kelly called, “The Men We Became: More Echoes From The End Zone.” The book featured a story on a former Notre Dame football player, Pat Fallon. After reading his story in Lisa’s book, I knew that this was an organization that I could get behind and support. Pat did amazing things to support a family who was going through a cancer battle as discussed above. Pat’s “Echo” made an impact on me and I know the correct organization that I will support for the foreseen future.
Here is a snippet of Pat Fallon’s chapter in, “The Men We Became: More Echoes from the End Zone,” to show you how he got the idea to run the World Marathon Challenge to help out the Wade family, and the Kids Shouldn’t Have Cancer Foundation. Their gala is this Saturday night. If you’re interested in helping them out, please visit their website: http://kidsshouldnthavecancer.org/
When you look at all that Fallon has accomplished in his life and the challenges he has overcome, you can clearly see a man who is not afraid of failure and who doesn’t take no for an answer. Fallon’s most recent life adventure, attempting the World Marathon Challenge (WMC), is more remarkable than any other target he has tried to hit – so far. The Challenge entails completing 7 Marathons on all 7 Continents in just 7 days. As of this printing, August 2016, there are just 26 people in the world that have successfully completed the World Marathon Challenge. In comparison, 4,000 people have summited Mount Everest. Fallon was also attempting to become the first person in the world, without any previous marathon experience, to complete the WMC!
Last summer there was a story on ESPN about the World Marathon Challenge, and up to that point I was completely unaware that this event even existed. I thought to myself, man, I’d love to do that someday. But often times you have thoughts like that knowing you’ll never actually do it. One of our friends – Jill McMillan, who lives in our neighborhood, has twin 5-year-old boys. She had a friend Kimberly Wade who lives in Jerseyville, IL, who also has twin boys who were 7 years old. In Dec of 2014 one of the Wade twins, Jonny, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Our friend Jill began posting about the Wade family and Jonny’s journey and struggles on Facebook, but I never read the posts. I just couldn’t bring myself to read them because it hurt too much. Having 9 and 6-year-old boys myself, it just hit too close to home. So I’m ashamed to say, at first, I took the ostrich approach and buried my head in the sand.
One night in Oct of 2015, I was reading about the World Marathon Challenge when I saw a post about Jonny Wade in my Facebook feed. For some reason I read it. It brought me to tears. His mother asked him if he could have one wish, what would that be. Instead of answering with the obvious and expected, “To get better Mommy,” Jonny responded with selfless wisdom beyond his years with, “I just wish no other kid ever has to get cancer.” His words filled my soul with emotion. My God, I wanted with all my heart to do something to help this brave little boy. And then this thought popped into my head. What if I ran the World Marathon Challenge? A guy like me trying something like that could get a lot of attention. We could raise awareness and money for Jonny and pediatric cancer research! And he’s a little boy, he loves adventure, he could follow the journey and it could be a good distraction for him and his twin brother Jacky while he battles this awful disease. So here I am, 47 years old, completely out of shape, weighing in at 235 pounds, and I hadn’t even run a 5K in years. No one had ever attempted this, let alone completed this, without being an ultra marathon athlete. I contacted Richard Donovan, with Polar Running Adventures, to express my interest in participating in the World Marathon Challenge and he told me, “You’re in luck! A spot just opened up we have one left.”
Only 15 people can participate in the World Marathon Challenge each year. Now all I had to do was convince my wife to let me do this. After a 33-page PowerPoint presentation on why it would be good for our family, North Texas, cancer research and the Wade family, she said yes. She told me, “I’m going to let you do this, not because of all of these reasons, or the nice presents you promised me in the presentation. I’m saying yes because of the cause.” You see, for the entire year, she had been reading Jill’s posts on Facebook the whole time. She told me, “If you do this for the Wade family, I am completely on board.”
Want to read the rest of Pat’s story? Pick up your copy of “The Men We Became: More Echoes From the End Zone” here.
Cheers & GO IRISH!