Running is my passion, it is my fix when things are broken. I run to escape reality, I run for fun. I know a lot of runners feel the same way. There are days when I run and wish I started to actually do this a long long time ago. I would probably be in much better condition and have accomplished a lot more (in the world of races). For all those wasted years I now push myself a little more. I grab on to those around me and get them after it as well now.
Let me flash back now to a time when I was just a youngster. I lived in Jersey City, NJ, right off of Journal Square. This was the mass transit hub of the area. You can get anywhere in the tri-state area starting right here.
My circle of friends at that young age included a dude named Kirk. He would play hard with us all the time, always giving his all. He would get winded before most of us. We did not understand why this was, he was not a big guy very skinny actually. He would also go away for about a week at a time sometimes longer. We were too young to understand anything at that time. When we got to High School and understood a bit more we knew what was ailing Kirk. He had Cystic-Fibrosis. We now had a name for his problems, but what the heck is Cystic Fibrosis we started asking him. Well as young teens it was very confusing. He however, had no trouble telling us what it was.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:
- clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and
- obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
In the 1950s, few children with cystic fibrosis lived to attend elementary school. Today, advances in research and medical treatments have further enhanced and extended life for children and adults with CF. Many people with the disease can now expect to live into their 30s, 40s and beyond.
When Kirk was diagnosed with CF his parents were told he would not make it to his teens. His family and he defied those odds. He made the Dickinson High School Swim team. Yes that is right a kid with a chronic disease affecting his lungs made the swim team, and excelled there. He was also heading to the Hospital in New York more frequently as we went further in school. He would go to St Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. We would jump on the train from the Square and go to the village to see him. It was a tough time for him as he saw many friends who he spent a lot of time in the hospital with lose their fight to CF. This was the first and only time I saw him get down on himself. He was so out of it, we had to push him to make it to graduation.
Flash forward a bit to 2005. I was stationed in Anniston, Al. I was working with a good group of people. As a Soldier you are used to being with a ton of other Soldiers all the time. This job was the polar opposite of that. There were 2 of us and a solid majority of civilian workers. During this time I made friends and joined the Knights of Columbus. I also began to run because I actually liked it. This is when I joined my first running club The Anniston Runners (www.annistonrunners.com) . I started going every week to local races and having fun. One day my friend Randy asked me if I could help with a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis. It was for his daughter Haley with the money going towards research at the University of Alabama Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I helped that night and then asked him a question. What about a 5K to raise funds? It was a shot in the dark. Neither of us had ever organized a race and my only experience was running in them. Our learning curve would be steep. I asked the ARC for help and Brooke Nelson jumped in with advice for us. She was the voice of reason when we were about to jump in too deep. We brainstormed and came up with a night race. That was it we were set for a huge undertaking.
At that first fundraiser Haley was performing as part of her Karate Gym, showing off skills many of us dream we could possess. Haley was diagnosed with CF at a very young age (18 Months) as well. Through the care of the medical professionals and the research at UAB she has been able to lead a near normal childhood.
For many of the seven years we have put this race on, I have been unable to attend it. I put in the work from behind the scenes as Randy, Brandi, Cal and the rest of Haley’s Team put the muscle work in. Our team has grown each year, and we look forward to future growth. The efforts so far have contributed to helping research at UAB and into awareness of CF.
Back to Kirk. He went on to become an EMT in North Arlington, NJ. He did this for many years. He put everyone above him and was always looking for ways to bring us all back together. In 2012 I deployed to Afghanistan again. This time I went as a Combat Advisor. On June 18th after a long patrol my Combat Outpost was attacked by indirect fire, a total of six rounds hit our base. We evacuated our wounded and gave care to local wounded then counted up our guys and conducted a review of our practices. About 1 hour later we started taking rounds again. This time I was the wounded. Along with three other Soldiers we were evacuated to higher medical care. I came out of surgery after 2130 that night and moved to a transient tent. The next afternoon when I came out of the medicine induced comatose state I found out after 42 plus years Kirk had been taken from us. Now I was injured and mad I did not get to say bye to him or have a last beer with him.
We were also one week from the 6th installment of the Haley’s Team Twilight 5K. We had to push forward with the race. Randy, Brandi and Haley made a tribute to Kirk at the start of the race and it was a successful day.
This year as we are about three weeks away from the race we celebrate that Haley has Graduated High School. This is a great accomplishment for a great young lady. We are also starting a Kirk Hill Scholarship program this year with $500 going to a Student with CF ( details to follow).
We hope to have a large field this year and those in the future. Visit us at www.haleysteam.com for registration and donation information.
As for me I still run and run a lot. Due to my injury I still have not found the speed I once had, It will come back, I just have to keep up the work.
Thanks For listening and I hope to see you on June 22nd in Anniston, Alabama