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4 Mar

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Run for a Life: A Father’s Journey

Nearly 28 years ago, I held my newborn baby, Suzanne.  As I gazed at her, I understood what they mean when they say “the eyes are the window to the soul.” It was then, I swore I would keep her safe, protect her and never let anything bad happen to her. Then ‘life’ stepped in.

Suzanne is schizophrenic, suffers from depression and has spent about seven of the past 12 years in psychiatric hospitals.  Her day is different from yours and mine. She hallucinates and hears voices. These voices tell her she is an awful, terrible person who is a burden and unlovable and that she should kill herself.  She wakes in the morning and the first thing she does before opening her eyes is cover her ears.

Yet to anyone who has been fortunate to meet her, Suzanne is the most caring, sensitive and intuitive person I have ever met.  Her ability to love and care for others while living her personal hell is truly remarkable. One is never too old to learn lessons from the young and she has defined for me the words “dignity” and “grace.”

The last 12 years have been quite a journey and now, it is time to take the next one…for Suzanne and the millions of people who suffer from mental illness and those who have been touched by those who suffer…every day, every hour, every minute, for the rest of their lives.

Some people choose to run away from this pain. I have chosen to run FOR this pain.

I don’t sing. I don’t dance. I don’t paint and I don’t build things. But I CAN run and that will be my building block to create awareness of mental illness and raise money to support the organizations that support those we love.

Beginning September 19, 2010 I will leave Savannah, Georgia on a cross country run. I intend to complete 100 marathons in 140 days, finishing in Los Angeles on February 6, 2011.

The proceeds from donations garnered along the way will benefit many deserving organizations. Two of the charities we are working with are: NARSAD, the Brain and Behavior Research Fund and NAMI (National Association for Mental Illness), the organization that supports families when they are dealing with challenges of having a family member or friend with mental illness.

The schedule will be brutal but nothing compared to the brutality of the battles these people face every day. It won’t be easy.  25% of the time it will be raining, 25% of the time will be over 80 degrees.  I will be badly blistered, lose toenails and have difficulty with everything from bugs and an 8,000 ft. climb to sunburn and bleeding while hoping that my 53 year-old body holds up.  There are 4.5 million steps involved in crossing the country but it is something I must do. Lao-tzu, the Chinese philosopher said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.”

My journey is made possible with the help of the Green Armada, a Tampa, FL-based 501(c)(3) non-profit group that helps other non-profit organizations succeed.  Green Armada is dedicated to making the world a more beautiful place.  Green Armada promotes clean air, water, land – and empowers people to make a difference by raising awareness to environmental issues and organizing eco-friendly events for thousands of volunteers to take action.  The Green Armada volunteers hope that my journey be filled with clean air and water to power me through to my goal. Together we are raising awareness to mental illness.  My journey will reminds us to appreciate the world around us and care for it – just as we would our child.  Suzanne’s future and the future of all our children depend on our success.

I ask you to take this journey with me. Along the way, you can follow my blog, see video from the runs and track my progress on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.  My route is published daily and you are welcome to join me for a few miles along the way.

Mental illness is a horrible, permanent affliction that we can do something about.  Starting now.  Please join me in taking a step for the Run for A Life: A Father’s Journey.