It was Alfred Tennyson who stated, "Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier'..." And it is my firm belief, along all of my years and thousands of miles of running that where hope abounds, there will always remain a heart of love.
In that spirit, it is my mission this year to train for the 2013 Chicago Marathon, and in the process of that training, I am planning to complete 31 half-marathons in prayerful dedication to the 31 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and 2013 Boston Marathon tragedies. Any and all half marathon medals received will be donated to the Medals4Mettle program. To read more about the Medals4Mettle program, visit HERE.
I am entitling this journey "THE EXTRA sMILE: 31-4-31-4-Hope"; 31 half-marathons for these 31 souls in an effort to raise donations for both the Dakota Medical Foundation-Lend A Hand program and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, both agencies that GREATLY impact the lives of those who unexpectedly face very serious illnesses and injuries - from 8 months to 80+ years of age.
And I would like to invite you along this journey. Take a moment to scroll down and look at the faces of these glorious souls - at least one will resonate with you and remind you of a family member, friend, colleague or your own child. If you are moved, then please consider donating - it doesn't need to be a large amount at all. Every cent, every dollar will help advance the mission of the Lend A Hand program and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Visit HOW TO HELP to donate. In advance, thanks for your generosity.
THE GREATEST WAY TO ADDRESS FEAR AND HATRED IS WITH A GENEROUS ACT OF LOVE AND HOPE.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 1 - Noah Pozner and Charlotte Bacon
2 Half Marathons Completed / 29 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 26.2 Miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to young souls, Noah Pozner and Charlotte Bacon, that perished senselessly at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was Mother Teresa who stated, "If I look at the mass I will never act." In tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School where 27 lives came to a horrific and unfathomable end, it can literally paralyze us. But we are called to continue on, support one another and attempt to make effort that a tragedy such as this does not occur again. We are called to look at the glory in each life, recognize how it adds to our own life and then apply that glory to our life and cherish those around us. We are the great marathon of Life and we are called to help each other to that finish line.
HALF MARATHON 1 - Noah Pozner
Noah Pozner, 6, had a huge heart and he was so much fun, a little bit rambunctious, lots of spirit," Noah's aunt told CNN. "He was really the light of the room."
HALF MARATHON 2 - Charlotte Bacon
Charlotte was sweet, outgoing and full of energy, her grandmother told CNN affiliate WCCO in Minnesota.
"This is tough. This is surreal. You can't believe this could happen," Irene Hagen told the network. "The whole family is just devastated and we're all trying to come to terms with it."
She said her granddaughter loved school and dresses. Her hair was a mass of beautiful red curls.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 2 - Jack Pinto and Olivia Engel
4 Half Marathons Completed / 27 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 52.4 Miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, Jack Pinto and Olivia Engel, first-grade classmates and victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: “The most sophisticated people I know - inside they are all children.” - Jiim Henson
It has been said before that it is mandatory for each of us to grow old , but optional to grow up. In the face of tragedies such as this one at a small Conneticut school, we are poignantly reminded that we were all children at one time in our life... and somewhere inside we still are that wondering and hopeful child. To each person this message reaches, I pray you will grab tight of that wondering and hopeful child and keep him/her close to you all the days of your life.
HALF MARATHON 3 - Jack Pinto
Jack was a first-grader, and his interests ran the gamut -- baseball, basketball, wrestling, snow skiing. But his first love was football, and his idol was New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz.
Cruz paid tribute to the team's young fan by scribbling "Jack Pinto. My Hero" on one of his cleats and "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" on the other during the team's game with the Atlanta Falcons over the weekend. On his glove, Cruz wrote, "Jack Pinto. This one is 4 U!"
HALF MARATHON 4 - Olivia Engel
Six-year-old Olivia Engel's favorite stuffed animal was a lamb; pink and purple were her favorite colors.
"She was insightful for her age and had a great sense of humor. She laughed a lot and always lit up a room including the people around her. She was very creative and was always drawing and designing things," her family said.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 3 - Dylan Hockley and Catherine Hubbard
6 Half Marathons Completed / 25 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 78.6 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, Dylan Hockley and Catherine Hubbard, first-grade classmates and victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012.
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.
To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
― Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them
HALF MARATHON 5 - Dylan Hockley
Dylan and his family had just moved from England to Connecticut two years ago. "We specifically chose Sandy Hook for the community and the elementary school. We do not and shall never regret this choice," Dylan's family said in a statement.
Dylan's family said he loved to cuddle and play tag with neighbors at the bus stop every morning. "He was learning to read and was so proud when he read us a new book every day," the family said. "He adored his big brother Jake, his best friend and role model."
HALF MARATHON 6 - Catherine Hubbard
The little girl with bright red hair will be remembered for her smile and her love of animals.
Catherine is survived by her older brother, her parents, grandparents, great-grandmother, uncles, aunts and nine cousins.
"Her family prays that she, all the students of Sandy Hook Elementary, and all those affected by this brutal event find peace in their hearts," they wrote in her obituary.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 4 - Avielle Richman and Anne Marie Murphy
8 Half Marathons Completed / 23 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 104.8 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, Avielle Richman, first-grade student, Anne Marie Murphy, teacher - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. In light of Ann Marie Murphy's heroic attempt to save her students, I share this quote with you:
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela
HALF MARATHON 7 - Avielle Richman
Her trainer, Annette Sullivan, told the Connecticut Post that Avielle would "giggle when she trotted."
Like kids her age, her first wobbly tooth was a sign she was growing up.
"She showed me her wiggly tooth, she was so excited," Sullivan told the newspaper. "She was the most delightful little girl you ever met in your life."
HALF MARATHON 8 - Anne Marie Murphy
A hero. That's how a first responder reportedly described Murphy to her father.
He told Newsday that authorities told him her body was found in a classroom, covering young children killed in the shooting in an apparent attempt to shield them.
"She died doing what she loved. She was serving children and serving God," Murphy's mother, Alice McGowan, told the newspaper.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 5 - Jessica Rekos and Victoria Soto
10 Half Marathons Completed / 21 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 131.0 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, Jessica Rekos, first-grade student, and Victoria Soto, teacher - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: "We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
HALF MARATHON 9 - Jessica Rekos
Jessica loved everything about horses -- horse movies, horse books, drawing horses and writing stories about them.
She asked Santa this year for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. Her family had promised she could get her own horse when she turned 10.
"She was a creative, beautiful, little girl," her family said in a statement, describing Jessica as their "rock."
HALF MARATHON 10 - Victoria Soto
Soto, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, moved her students away from the classroom door when she heard gunfire.
"That's when the gunman burst in, did not say a word, no facial expressions, and proceeded to shoot their teacher," said Robert Licata, whose 6-year-old son, Aiden, escaped by running past the shooter.
Soto's mother said her daughter was selfless. "She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself, and especially children. She loved them more than life, and she would definitely put herself in front of them any day," Donna Soto told CNN's Piers Morgan.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 6 - Lauren Rousseau and James Mattioli
12 Half Marathons Completed / 19 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 157.2 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, James Mattioli, first-grade student, and Lauren Rousseau, teacher - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: "Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." - Mother Teresa
HALF MARATHON 11 - Lauren Rousseau
Rousseau, a permanent substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, "wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," her mother said in a written statement Saturday. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream," Teresa Rousseau said.
HALF MARATHON 12 - James Mattioli
As he was quick to remind everyone, James was 6 and 3/4. "He loved to wear shorts and T-shirts in any weather and grab the gel to spike his hair," his family said in a loving obituary. "He would often sing at the top of his lungs, and once asked, 'How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?'"
Indoors, he spent his time playing games on the iPad -- especially the lawn mowing one. Outdoors, he loved to dive off the diving board, "swim like a fish" in his grandfather's pool and ride his bike -- without training wheels, mind you. "I need to go outside, Mom. I need fresh air," he would often say.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 7 - Mary Sherlach and Daniel Barden
14 Half Marathons Completed / 17 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 183.4 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, Daniel Barden, first-grade student, and Mary Sherlach, school psychologist - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: "Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” - Maya Angelou
HALF MARATHON 13 - Mary Sherlach
Sherlach, Sandy Hook Elementary's school psychologist, was with Hochsprung when they heard a "pop, pop, pop" sound around 9:30 a.m., a parent with both women at the time told CNN. Sherlach was shot to death after heading into the hall to find out what was happening.
"I ... am always ready to assist in problem-solving, intervention and prevention," Sherlach wrote on her website.
HALF MARATHON 14 - Daniel Barden
Daniel earned his missing two front teeth, his family used to say. His "fearless" pursuit of happiness and life also earned him ripped jeans. "Despite that, he was, as his mother said, 'Just So Good,'" his family wrote in a statement published in the New Haven Register.
Taking after his musician dad, Daniel and his siblings -- brother James and sister Natalie -- formed a band, in which he played drums.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 8 - Dawn Hochsprung and Grace McDonnell
16 Half Marathons Completed / 15 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 209.6 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls, Grace McDonnell, first-grade student, and Dawn Hochsprung, school principal - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: “If happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, then we must be happy for all that comes into our life, for even misfortune blesses us if it builds our character and strengthens our faith in pursuing that which is good and noble.” - Meera Lester
HALF MARATHON 15 - Dawn Hochsprung
Dawn Hochsprung, who became Sandy Hook Elementary School's principal two years ago, was "really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense," friend Tom Prunty said. And the students loved her. "Even little kids know when someone cares about them, and that was her," Prunty said.
HALF MARATHON 16 - Grace McDonnell
Grace was the "light and love of our family," her mother told CNN. She loved her brother, school, the beach and wanted to be a painter. For her 7th birthday in November, Grace requested a purple cake with a turquoise peace sign and polka dots. And that's exactly what she got.
"She was all about peace and gentleness and kindness," Lynn McDonnell told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "Grace didn't have an ounce of hate in her, and so we have to live through Grace and realize that hate is not how our family is." The family drew cupcakes, ice creams cones, lighthouses and seagulls -- all things Grace loved -- on her tiny white casket.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 9 - Emilie Parker and Nancy Lanza
18 Half Marathons Completed / 13 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 235.8 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent soul and first-grade student Emilie Parker and adult Nancy Lanza- victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." - Jimi Hendrix
HALF MARATHON 17 - Emilie Parker
Emilie "was the type of person who could light up a room," her father told reporters Saturday. His oldest daughter was "bright, creative and very loving," and "always willing to try new things other than food," Robbie Parker said.
"Emilie Alice Parker was the sweetest little girl I've ever known," her aunt, Jill Cottle Garrett, said. The family is devastated that "someone so beautiful and perfect is no longer going to be in our lives and for no reason," Garrett said.
HALF MARATHON 18 - Nancy Lanza
Before the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother -- Nancy -- in her home in Newtown's Sandy Hook community, authorities said. Adam was living with his mother, two law enforcement sources said. The other son, Ryan, was living in New Jersey.
Nancy Lanza was a personable neighbor who lived on a block of spacious houses on a crest overlooking gentle hills, acquaintances said.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 10 - Jesse Lewis and Allison Wyatt
20 Half Marathons Completed / 11 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 262.0 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls and first-grade students Jesse Lewis and Allison Wyatt - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: "God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless." - Chester W. Nimitz
HALF MARATHON 19 - Jesse Lewis
Jesse loved math, riding horses and playing at his mom's farm, his father told the New York Post.
"He was just a happy boy," said Neil Heslin. "Everybody knew Jesse."
He told the newspaper his son was to make gingerbread houses at school Friday. Heslin was planning to help.
HALF MARATHON 20 - Allison Wyatt
Once, Allison offered her snacks to a complete stranger on plane. That's just the type of person she was.
Allison was a "sweet, creative, funny, intelligent little girl who had an amazing life ahead of her," her parents said.
They described their daughter as kind-hearted. She loved to draw and wanted to be an artist.
THE EXTRA sMILE: Week 11 - Ana Marquez-Greene and Josephine Gay
22 Half Marathons Completed / 9 Half Marathons Remaining
TOTAL MILES TO DATE: 288.2 miles
This week's half marathons were run and dedicated to the innocent souls and first-grade students Ana Marquez-Greene and Josephine Gay - victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School horrific killings on December 14, 2012. I share this quote with you: "Crime butchers innocence to secure a throne, and innocence struggles with all its might against the attempts of crime." - Maximilien Robespierre
HALF MARATHON 21 - Ana Marquez-Greene
"One, two, three, ready and go," Ana counts down in a homemade video provided to CNN affiliate WTIC.
The girl in pigtails stands in front of a piano as her brother plays. Her voice is clear, bigger than her size. Ana smiles and waves.
Her father, Jimmy Greene, is a jazz musician. His representative released a statement on Ana's death, describing the little girl as "beautiful and vibrant."
HALF MARATHON 22 - Josephine Gay
Josephine had just celebrated her seventh birthday Tuesday. There's a picture of her on the Web, published in various news stories, that shows her smiling with glasses on the tip of her nose.
Josephine liked to ride her bike and sell lemonade in her neighborhood in the summer, The Wall Street Journal reported. The little girl loved the color purple.
HALF MARATHON 23 - Caroline Previdi
"You were a sweet little girl and you will be missed."
That's the message that Caroline's aunt reportedly tweeted, saying goodbye to her niece, according to the online version of the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, California.
"It hurts even more to see a familiar name on that list," the report said Paige Tremblay also tweeted.
HALF MARATHON 24 - Rachel D'Avino
She likely didn't know it when she died, but her best friend was about to propose. He had recently asked Rachel's parents for permission, and he was planning to ask for her hand in marriage on Christmas Eve.
That and other details about Rachel's life were described in an obituary posted on the website of Munson-Lovetere Funeral Homes of Connecticut.
"Her presence and tremendous smile brightened any room she entered," it read.
HALF MARATHON 25 - Chase Kowalski
What Chase really wanted for Christmas was two front teeth.
"I saw him two days ago, and I asked him if he wanted to see Santa, and he told me that he wanted his teeth back, and it was really sweet," Chase's neighbor Keeley Baumann, 13, told News Times.
At 6, Chase completed his first triathlon, but that was just one of his pursuits. He loved baseball. He was in the Cub Scouts. He looked forward to the kids' workshop at the local Home Depot.
HALF MARATHON 26 - Benjamin Wheeler
Ben loved The Beatles, lighthouses and the No. 7 train to Sunnyside, Queens, his family said in a statement. He and his older brother Nate "filled the house with the noise of four children."
"Ben Wheeler was an irrepressibly bright and spirited boy whose love of fun and excitement at the wonders of life and the world could rarely be contained. His rush to experience life was headlong, creative and immediate," his family said. Ben loved soccer and swimming.
HALF MARATHON 27 - Madeleine Hsu
Sweet. Unique. Bright. Determined. Sparkling.
Those are words Madeleine's family used to describe their little girl.
"She was an avid reader who loved running and dancing," they said. "She was a born leader."
HALF MARATHON 27 - Kristie Campbell
Victim #1 of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings
HALF MARATHON 28 - Lingzi Lu
Victim #2 of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings
HALF MARATHON 29 - Sean Collier
Victim #3 of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings
HALF MARATHON 30 - Martin Richard
Victim #4 of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings