Stroll for Strong

I finished a charity walk today looking like I ran a 5k. It turns out pulling a 6-year-old and 3-year-old in a wagon, up hills and across rough terrain is not easy. I was dripping with sweat.

Today’s event raised money for Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, NY. This hospital and its staff are a vital part of our community. They do amazing work for a lot of families. I walked in support of my dear friend, Jennifer. Last year, her daughter Grace, born with CDH, was one of the hospital’s “Miracle Kids.” Grace passed away in February at just 17-months-old. I got teary eyed when I saw a poster of her at today’s fundraiser. I thought to myself, I can’t believe Grace isn’t here.

The Stroll for Strong is like a carnival complete with face painting, magicians and a dunk tank.

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There’s food, ice cream and bounce houses. My kids spotted the play area the minute we pulled up. They sat patiently in the wagon until the walk was over. Then, they raced over to the play area. My 3-year-old daughter wanted to follow her older brother through the inflatable obstacle course, but was afraid. The sign said you had to be under 6′ tall and 250 pounds. I could go with her. We got halfway through before I realized it was a horrible idea. How was I supposed to squeeze through this carrying a toddler:

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I decided to go first and pull my daughter through. I put my legs up, hoping to slide feet first. Well, my sweaty knees got stuck on the plastic. I did a face plant on the other side. My daughter, who apparently has trust issues, thought I abandoned her. “Mommy,” she cried. “Don’t leave me.” I didn’t leave her in the mall when she threw herself on the ground screaming. I didn’t walk away when she knocked coffee out of my hand in Starbucks. So, why would I choose to abandon her now? “I’m right here,” I mumbled. Each time I tried to stand my foot sunk deep into the plastic throwing me back on my ass. I was finally able to claw my way to a kneeling position. “Come on honey,” I signaled for my daughter to jump into my arms. “No. I can’t. I’m scared,” she screamed. I was about to have a panic attack. I had to get out of this damn bounce house.

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It became a Bruce Willis movie.
“Listen to me. Calm down! You have to come with me,” I yelled, grabbing her arms and dragging her to safety. I met another woman at the exit who looked just as frazzled. We locked eyes and I said, “That was..” She finished the sentence, “Awful!” We both laughed. “We are the best mother’s ever,” she continued. I nodded in agreement.

I let my children play alone a bit longer. Then, we made the long journey back to the car. That is when it dawned on me. Grace was here today. You could feel her spirit everywhere. She is still inspiring people. Even on days when life seems impossible, Grace reminds us not to give up. She was even with me in that bounce house. Grace was and will always be in my heart.

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