In case you haven’t heard, Team RWB Texas is a force to be reckoned with! The latest achievement on their list was organizing, manning and executing a very successful water station at mile 17 of the Houston marathon. The effort was spearheaded by Melissa Grobler, who enlisted over 100 volunteers to support, cheer on, and revitalize over 10,000 runners. With the tremendous help and support of Aaron and Tiffany Hetherington, Katherine Powell, and Jeanette Pearson the station was aglow with Team Red, White & Blue signs and markers, which not only invigorated the six Team RWB athletes running the race (Bill & Bridget Moeller, Jim, Jenny and Robert Mason, and Nichole Witt), but also the thousands of runners, spectators and volunteers at the event.

It is no easy feat to coordinate a volunteer effort of this magnitude and maintain the constant fire, for which Team Red, White & Blue community members are so well known, throughout an entire day. But in true fashion, they maintained an intense state of enthusiasm and support for every runner in Houston on January 14th, right down to the last man. They not only handed out water, gatorade and energy supplements, but (and this is my favorite part) also manned a free “high 5” station with volunteers under the age of 5 being an integral part of that duty.

Many congratulations to Melissa, Houston lead advocate – Chris Widell, and the whole team of volunteers who made this event happen. This was a brilliant idea, which gave hundreds of people of all ages an opportunity to volunteer and simultaneously show their support for Team Red, White & Blue. The event spurred a donation from the Houston Marathon Committee to TRWB, but much more importantly it generated a great deal of awareness for our important mission.

After their amazing success at the Houston marathon, Team RWB Houston has committed to man a water station at the Woodlands Marathon on March 3rd, 2012. They will also be providing athlete support at the Ironman Texas on May 19th, 2012 (Aaron Hetherington will lead that effort). So if you are in the Texas area and looking for a way to get involved with Team RWB, here is your opportunity. Stay plugged in by visiting Team RWB Texas on facebook or checkout Chris Widell’s newsletter at this link.

Congratulations and keep up the fire Texas!
It’s Our Turn!
Greg


Today I want to share a story about an incredibly mature and selfless 10 year old girl named Sarah.  Her story begins with a simple act of sending rosaries to the brother of a family friend at West Point to distribute to Team Red, White & Blue.  From this act emerged an idea, Sarah decided that she wanted to make and distribute rosaries “to any Soldier who wants one or until they all come home.”  The kindness and appreciation that is implicit in this act is astonishing from such a young woman, and is certainly a testament to her character and the selfless nature of those around her.  Then Sarah learned about the mission and vision of Team Red, White & Blue and how this community of individuals is united through a shared passion of running and honoring those who served.  This revelation caused Sarah to expand her mission to include, “I’m going to run until my feet fall off and then I’ll run some more.”  And this is where Sarah demonstrated her true colors and in doing so truly amazed me and the Team Red, White & Blue community.  The following is this heart-warming story of Sarah’s first 5k as told by her mother Jolynn.

Sarah and I completed our first 5K. She finished 7th in the “Under 14” category. If you’ll indulge a proud mom, the story follows:

While Sarah and I were training, I kept trying to convince her that, because I am older and out of shape, she needed to be prepared to run ahead of me.  She resisted because she’s “not a ditcher.”  On race day, I reminded her that I thought she could do really well if she just ran out ahead of me, and despite the insistence of her 13-year-old sister that it would be OK, she was still refusing.  As circumstances at the starting line would have it, Sarah and I got separated and I watched her red hat and shirt disappear into the crowd…so proud that she was off on her own.  As runners were heading back toward the start/finish (this was an out-and-back not a loop), I kept looking for my daughter on the return.  As we passed going in opposite directions, we both exchanged shouts of encouragement.  I admit I teared up a little as she told me to keep moving because I could do this and because I couldn’t believe how well she was doing on her own.

As I got “back to town” and could see the town square ahead, I noticed a red hat and red shirt coming back toward me.  I started to tear up again; she was coming back for me.  Sarah is a big fan of Trace Adkins’ song, “Semper Fi.”  As she took my hand, she said, “…never leave a man behind…Semper Fi.  We’re going to finish this.”

Sarah had such a great time running and representing Team Red, White, and Blue in Harmony, PA, and she’s looking forward to running Cupid’s Chase 5K in Pittsburgh, February 11.  She tried to pull a team together for the American Odyssey Relay in April from Gettysburg to DC after they agreed to let her run, but she hasn’t been able to put a 12 person team together (she’s got 6), so we’re doubtful that will come together.  Her dad and I are hoping to get her team to run some sort of homemade relay with her instead.

Thank you again for all your help getting Sarah and I registered to run on behalf of Team Red, White, and Blue, and for all you and the organization do for our wounded veterans.

Sincerely,
Jolynn

If you are in search of an inspirational story about overcoming adversity and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, then look no further than Team Red, White & Blue’s very own – Jillian O’Malley.  I recently had the privilege to hear the first hand account of her triumph from a morbidly obese woman to an Ironman finisher.  As if this achievement wasn’t impressive enough, Jillian is also a combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq; she is an Army spouse gearing up for her husband’s third combat deployment; she is a full time mother to two beautiful girls; and she is a a college student to boot!  If you are like me, then you probably came to the conclusion that Jillian is superhuman, and honestly all evidence points in that direction.

Having suffered from a metabolism disorder her whole life, Jillian had a lot of trouble maintaining a healthy weight despite diet and exercise.  At the age of 26, after having two children, Jillian was morbidly obese at a weight of 300 pounds.  She would become winded walking from her car to the front door of the commissary.  It was at this point that she decided to make a change to ensure she would be able to live an active life with her husband and children.  She elected to have gastric bypass surgery, which in effect would serve to counter the metabolism disorder that burdened her throughout her life and army career.  The surgery was a success and Jillian was cleared to exercise just one month post operation.  To say that she exercised would be putting it mildly – Jillian worked diligently and just six months after her operation she lost an astonishing 140 pounds!  She ran her first 5k in 31:08, and four months later, Jillian ran her first sprint triathlon.  This achievement would serve to ignite a spark within her, making triathlons her passion.  She worked her way up the ladder finishing half marathons, full marathons, half Ironmans and eventually crossing the finish line and completing a full Ironman!

Despite all of her tremendous accomplishments, Jillian remains a humbled woman eager to give back to other veterans who have served our great nation.  She mentioned that she was grateful to have come back from Iraq unharmed after two tours, and her heart goes out to those that have not been as fortunate.  This is what fueled her motivation – to race for every service member who has served honorably and sacrificed greatly.  Jillian acknowledges that “racing is inherently selfish” because it is an individual sport with individual results, but she approaches each race as though she is governed by a higher purpose – to run for those men and women who cannot.  This is precisely what drew her into the mission of Team Red, White & Blue.   She enjoys the great community of people driven not by fundraising or individual results, but rather by a shared passion for running and an appreciation for veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for our great nation.

It is certainly an honor to have Jillian as a part of our Team Red, White & Blue community.  She is an inspiration to anyone who is facing tough circumstances.  Her message is clear – you can accomplish anything you set out to achieve.  When asked to offer advice to others facing a similar dilemma, Jillian responds, “It is never too late, and there is always hope.  Also, remember that no matter how slow you think you are running, you are always lapping everyone who is just sitting on the couch.”  Since we have recently entered a new year, it seems that there is no better time to take her up on this advice and start making positive changes in 2012.

So what is next for Jillian O’Malley?  She is running the Orlando 70.3 and Augusta 70.3 with a target finish time of under 5.5 hours.  She will be finishing her degree in Homeland Security in approximately eight months.  And she will be performing the difficult duties and sacrifices associated with an army spouse as her husband Joel prepares for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan at the end of the year.  One thing is for certain, everyone at Team Red, White & Blue wishes her and her family the best of luck in all of their endeavors and will be supporting them 100%.  If you are eager to keep up with Jillian’s story you can follow her blog at: http://www.fattytoironmom.com/

It’s Our Turn!

Greg