A few months ago my sister, Whitney, encouraged me to do something special for my upcoming 40th birthday. When she suggested running a half-marathon, I actually got a lump in my throat and my eyes teared up. "I CAN'T do that,” I said. “I don't run." But, in the next few moments, I knew that this was something I had to do. I had to prove to myself that I can, but even more importantly, for my son, William.
He has proven to me throughout his life that he is a fighter, and I want to join him in this fight.
William has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. This means that, essentially, he only has half a heart, because his left ventricle never developed. Three open-heart surgeries later, he still has - and always will have - half a heart.
To many he seems perfectly normal - he runs around, plays all sorts of sports at an incredible level, and has a ton of energy. But, things are different for a child without a left ventricle. When his cousins were running up a mountainside in Italy on vacation, William was far behind watching them all up ahead. Determined, his father, Jeremy, grabbed his hand and said, “Come on, we can do this.”
And they did - they ran and walked up that mountain to join his cousins at the top. That exact memory, William’s determination and his fight, is why I am running.
In December, William's dream came true. He was granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. When his volunteers asked him what he’d wish for, he knew exactly what he wanted - to see Arsenal, his favorite football club, play in London. Make-A-Wish flew our whole family to London for a week so that he could attend the match in VIP style. I remember at one point during the game, William turned to Jeremy and said, "Now aren't you glad I had all those surgeries, Dad?"
No, we are not glad. No one ever wishes to be a wish family, but Make-A-Wish was able to give him an incredible memory that he will always look back upon with joy.
Although it is a small way to repay Make-A-Wish, I am honored to be raising money to help other children with critical illnesses receive their ultimate wish. And William is, too. When I told him that I am raising money and running for Make-A-Wish, he said without hesitation, "Mom, count me in! I want to give my money because I am so grateful to them for what they did for me!" He ran upstairs, counted his change and gave me $5.45 to donate. Will you consider joining William in donating to Make-A-Wish? You can match his $5.45, or you can choose your own amount. Any donation will help the Make-A-Wish team support kids in our community by making their wishes come true.
Strangely, from the first day of my training, I have enjoyed running. I actually look forward to it! When I get tired during a run, I often think of William running up that mountainside - tired and winded, but focused on the goal. He is my inspiration.
Join William and Jennie in Wishing it Forward - donate to our 2020 United Airlines NYC Half