Sunday, May 17, 2009

Part I: Tough and Lovely

It was a busy weekend, with both the Race for the Cure and Agora 6 taking place on Saturday. These are two of my favorite annual events here in Columbus and I was still pleasantly surprised. Both provided an interesting look into what Columbus has to offer - from dramatically different perspectives.

Part I: Race for the Cure
My morning started at 5:00 a.m. It was my second year volunteering in "SurvivorPalooza" and I can't imagine working in any other place. I must not be alone, because at least half of us were returning volunteers from last year. It was fun to see people a year later and it made it even more exciting. I'm not a very emotional person, but Race for the Cure is one of the most emotional and humbling things I've ever experienced. Having my own cancer scare two years ago, I understand what it's like to get that call. I can't imagine what these survivors and their families have been through. You can't spend the day with them, hear their stories, read their "In Memory of" cards and not be changed.

There's such a feeling of unity and hope mixed in with the sadness in the survivor area. I asked one woman how her day was going and she got choked up. She said she had no idea that this day would be so emotional - she was only six months into her treatments. Other women would proudly boast their remission times, and everyone would cheer for them. We opened water bottles and peeled bananas for women too weak from treatments and surgeries. These are things most of us never have to think twice about. A well-known doctor was volunteering in our tent and women were running over to her all day, screaming, showing off their newly grown hair. She knew every single one of them by name and told them how great they looked. There's a good chance that I'll never see most of the people I talked to that day. The fact that I did get to meet them, cheer for them, or even open a bottle of water for is a huge honor.

None of us saw the race, but I'm sure it was pretty amazing, too. We heard a lot about the bikers who had lined up, wearing pink wigs, and revved their engines while the runners passed. I saw a lot of men in pink wigs that day. Last year, Heather's Team had a small tent next to us. This year, it wasn't there but the members of her original team stopped by for a while. You could tell it was an emotional day for them. From what I was told, there were more than 45,00o people there that day and 4,200 were wearing a pink wig.

After the event was over and everything was packed up, I went to grab my sweatshirt and keys only to find that both were missing. It was one of those moments where everything seems to stop for a few seconds. I had left everything, including my phone, I.D., and money, in my locked car. This left me trapped downtown with a pack of gum and $5. The people I had volunteered with, who I only knew from this event, were checking the area and making phone calls within minutes. Several phone calls and half an hour later, we found my keys (someone had accidentally taken my stuff when they packed up) and the whole group cheered. I don't even know most of their names, but I worked with some really awesome people that day.

If any of you are reading this, thanks to everyone who put this event together, ran the race, volunteered, and made an appearance as a survivor. Congratulations and good luck.

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