Monday, December 14, 2015

St Jude has my heart

When I set goals, I go BIG... and I do whatever I can do to make them happen! Ever since I read about Heaven, I have supported St. Jude. In 2012 (as you can see in my goals on one of the tabs on this page).

First off, I want to thank every single person who has supported me, and donated money to St. Jude. I love each and every single one of you!! I can't thank you enough!

The first stop when I got to Memphis was a tour of St. Jude. When I walked in the front door, I immediately got chills, and got teary eyed. I felt like Heaven was there with me. I was texting Jamey (Heaven's mom) as I was on the tour. We weren't allowed to take a lot of pictures due to the privacy of the families that were there.
Here is one of the first photo op spots. It was a gingerbread house that was made by the kids at St. Jude. I thought it was so adorable!!

We found out that St. Jude keeps every child's DNA in the basement for future testing. I think that is so amazing! One day cancer will be 100% curable!

I asked Jamey what Heaven's favorite spots were at St. Jude. She said "the fish tanks." I let my tour guide know about the fish tanks, and asked if we were going to go to that room. She said, "No, but when we go to the next photo op spot, follow me down the hallway. I'll take you there, but we gotta do it quick, cause we aren't supposed to go into this room during the tour." I followed her, and there were two fish tanks. Random fact: I love fish too!! :)

A little throwback picture--- When I visited Heaven, we took some photobooth pics. Here we are being fishies!!!

After the tour, we were allowed to go to the gift shop on the campus. I walked in, and the first song that was playing was Taylor Swift. I swear Heaven did that on purpose! :)

Next stop: The expo.

I walked into the expo, and there was a random van you could write on. I climbed on top, and wrote what you see above. That was fun!

As I walk walking around the expo, I saw this SUV with names on it. I asked the lady how people got their names on the car. She said, "If you raised over $500 by the end of May your name got put on the car. Did you do that?" I said, "I don't know, but I guess it never hurts to look." She asked what my name was, and I told her. She goes, "Let's look. It's in ABC order." She took me over to where the C's were, and I saw my name. My face was priceless. There was a photographer there taking pics, and I wish she would have captured that moment. I felt so special!

The next stop was the Spaghetti Dinner.

Let's rewind just a little bit: I met this family while on the tour of St. Jude. They asked me if I was by myself, and I said I was. I let them know I was going to go to the spaghetti dinner. They said, "Look for us. You can sit with us. We'll be wearing the shirts we are wearing now." Out of 2500 plus people, we somehow found each other. It was crazy. How on earth it happened, I have not the slightest idea. We got to know each other really well. You'll hear more about them later on.

During the dinner, there was a big TV showing people's tweets. There were probably 10 or so tweets that kept getting shown. The computer guy would throw random tweets in there that people tweeted him. He showed maybe 5-10 extra ones in an hour time span. Mine got picked! I got so excited!!

My text to Jamey:
Me: (Including pic) I GOT ON THE BIG SCREEN!
Jamey: I love you!

The spaghetti dinner was so emotional and powerful. A mom of a child at St. Jude spoke. During her story, she said that she was running tomorrow, and she mentioned that the next time we think about stopping to walk up that hill, count to 140. I am drawing a blank on what the meaning behind that was, but it was dealing with amount of treatments her son has had, or something. Remember this for a little further down in my story as well...

Another one of the speakers was Rick Shadyac, the Chief Executive officer of ALSAC. He is basically the fundraising guy for St. Jude. Without him, St. Jude wouldn't be where or what it is today. Remember this name as well.

They announced the top 5 team fundraisers, and top 5 individual fundraisers for the St. Jude Marathon weekend. I can't remember the exact numbers... but for the individuals, one girl was 10, and another girl was 13. I am so proud of them!

I texted Jamey and told her there was no way I was NOT going to be able to run this again next year. St. Jude has my heart forever. She said that we are going to get a huge team together to run it. I told her we have a goal-- and our goal is to be in the top 10 for teams, but our ultimate goal is the top 5 and to be announced at the spaghetti dinner. Do your remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned that when I set goals, I do whatever I can to get them accomplished? Well, this WILL happen.

Let the race begin!! I signed up for the half originally, but due to my knee giving me havoc, I ended up switching to the 5k a couple weeks before the race. My bib still said half- so I was told I could do either. I ended up doing the 5k.

I texted this photo to Jamey and said "I'm off!" and she said "YOU GO GIRL!"

Random fact: I wore Heaven's shoes for the race!!

As I started to cross the starting line, I started bawling. I couldn't believe I was actually there. It felt like a dream. I knew Heaven was there with me, cheering me on the whole way. She is the best cheerleader!! I pretty much had tears streaming down my face the whole race. Earlier in the post, I mentioned about the speaker counting 150 steps before she decided to stop running. I decided I would count to 140. That's 20 weeks (or 140 days) since the day the Lord called Heaven home. 

As we went through the campus of St. Jude, I am pretty sure I touched every single person's hand that was cheering on the sidelines. I can't tell you how motivating (and emotional) that was.
I started to step to the side at a water station because my knee braces were rubbing against my other leg, and causing it to rub a hole in my pants. As you can see, there was a spot that was rubbed raw. I just got those pants a couple days earlier, so I was not a happy camper that happened! A boy came up behind me as I started to step off to the side and goes, "Team Heaven, don't stop! Keep running!" I heard him say that, and said I told myself I got this... I'm not going to adjust it... and I kept going. The boy and I finished the last mile together. I ended up sprinting once I saw the finish line, and beat him by a little bit. I waited for him at the finish line, and tapped on his shoulder. I gave him the biggest hug with tears streaming down my face and said, "Because of you I didn't stop. I love you!"

Here is proof I turned back to look for the boy who inspired me to keep going!! 

After the race, I went to the VIP section. I went to go get a massage, which was definitely needed! There were three chairs to a room. One of the guys next to me mentioned he was a patient at St. Jude in 2011. I waited til after he was done with the massage to talk to him.
Me: Do you know a girl named Heaven Kelley?
Him: Haven?
Me: No, Heaven. She met Taylor Swift when she was a patient there.
Him: YES! I know her! We have so many stories together! She was the only patient who met Taylor.
Me: What's your name? Do you mind if I text Heaven's mom to see if she remembers you?
Him: JonMichael. And no, I don't mind.
Me: Jamey just texted me back. She said "Heaven loved him. They would lay on the chairs in the waiting rooms next to each other."
Him: Let's get a picture!

I keep saying Heaven was there.. and somehow, out of the 20,000 runners, I run into him!

After the massage, and talking with JonMichael a little bit, I went back downstairs to see what venders were outside. I saw this, and had to get a picture! It's kind of an awkward picture, but I rang that bell- and I rang it hard and screamed "I LOVE YOU HEAVEN!!!"

I got my medal engraved. They actually messed up on the first one. They said they were just going to toss it, so I asked if I could have it. My goal was to run the 5K in 45 minutes, because I planned to run/walk it. I didn't train much, because while I was training for the half, I tripped over a curb, and landed on my bad knee. It's been messed up since. It started to hurt worse a month or so before the race, so I didn't run at all. I ended up running the whole race, and got a PR!! (Personal Record). It's still slow, but for not training at all, and having a possible torn ACL again, I'll take the time!! Plus, I beat my time by 11 minutes!

This picture is a little out of order... but here I am pictured with Rick Shadyac. I was sitting at the table with the family from the tour/dinner (I'll explain a little later..) and I saw his name on his bib. I said "That's my dad's name!" and Jordan, the dad, goes "That's Rick Shadyac. From Alsac!" I was like, "He looks so different close up!" I mentioned that I wanted to thank him for everything he does for St. Jude. I asked Jordan what to say, so I did exactly what he said. I went up to him as we was leaving.
Me: Mr. Rick, I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for St. Jude. I have a friend named Heaven who was a patient at St. Jude, who is now up in Heaven looking down on me. I am actually wearing her shoes!
Mr. Rick: I want to thank you as well! Your story just gave me chills!

I have him a huge hug, and Jordan grabbed my phone, and snapped this picture.

After I was done getting my metal engraved, I went back up to the VIP section. I spoke with a guy who actually dated the person who wrote "The climb" by Miley Cyrus. He went to go meet his wife at the finish line, so I decided to get up as well. I turned the corner to grab a drink, and ran into the boys from the Charlet family. (My friends from the tour/dinner). Again, out of all the people that ran, I see them AGAIN!!!

This is Collin. He is the boy that kept me going. 

Again, I apologize that this is out of order. We didn't get this picture until we said our goodbyes... so that is why this is at the end.

When I saw the three boys, I asked them how they did during the race. I went down the line, asking them how they did. I get to the littlest one, and he goes, "I ran with you." I was like, "THAT WAS YOU?" I don't know why it didn't dawn on me before that, but for some reason it didn't. Their mom was running the half, and their dad was running the full. I hung out with them the whole time. We had a blast- they are such sweet young men! I even found out that one of the boys names was Jude- which I LOVED! The boy who pushed me is Collin. When their mom, Aimee, finished, we all sat outside waiting for their dad, Jordan, to finish. He came up to see us. He mentioned that he had a rough race. He went to clean out his fanny pack thing, and said that he had three pieces of gum left, and pulled it out of his fanny pack. The gum was torn up into a bunch of tiny pieces. He came over to me, and told me to put my hand out. I thought he was going to give me the gum to throw away. He gave me a coin. Here's what he said:
Jordan: You need to carry this with you every time you run. It is St. Sebastion. On the back it reads "St. Sebastion is the Saint of Athletes and sports, help me to do the best I can, aim high and always give it my best effort, and if I should fall give me the strength to try harder.."

That was so sweet of him! It's in my wallet- and you betcha I'll carry this with me forever!

Here are some pictures I took at a photobooth in the VIP center.

The next day, Sheryl and Rod took me down Beale Street. I saw this painting on the street, and had to get a picture taken!! Of course I had to get Heaven's shoes in it! I was also wearing the shoe laces I got at the St. Jude 5k in KC in September!

I am considered a St. Jude Hero because of the amount of money I raised.

As I left Memphis, I had the girl next to me take a picture of me as we flew over Memphis. My goal was to get St. Jude in the picture. I think I missed it... but it's the thought that counts!! :) I sent this picture to Jamey, and she said "it will be in your heart forever". She couldn't have said that any better. St. Jude will ALWAYS have my heart.... FOREVER.

I have only ran a few races in my lifetime. Every single one that I have ran was for Heaven. As I cross the finish line, I do a "Taylor heart", T, and an H, which stands for Team Heaven. I am so glad that the photographers captured this photo of me doing an H as I crossed the finish line! It's PERFECT!

I am ending this post with a couple pictures of me and Heaven.  This is when she dropped me off at the airport. This was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to do. As I walked through the doors, and they drove off, Jamey texted me saying "Heaven just asked when you're coming back, because she didn't want you to leave."
This was our final goodbye hug. That hug is still wrapped around me, and it will be forever. "Even though we're miles away, that place in my heart will always stay." ~Lyrics by me

Taylor Swift brought Heaven and I together. You can read about it more on one of my blog tabs. Because of that, I am ending it with some lyrics by Taylor Swift.

"Stay beautiful, cause I see, sparks fly, whenever you smile and had the best day with you, today"

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