Thursday, May 14, 2009

This One's for the Dads

"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He believed in me."

Jim Valvano

All I know at this moment is...I need to write about it. It's been on my mind since Saturday and I haven't quite figured out what it means.

Friday afternoon, I got a beautiful set of thank you cards from a group of girls at a Girls on the Run site in Charlotte. I had made an impromptu visit to their school a couple of weeks ago and the joy we all felt during our few minutes together was wonderful!

One of the cards was from Mikayla. She had covered it with stars, hearts and amazing little swirly thingies (there really is no better way to describe them). Her words were simple and as follows:


Thank you so much for inventing Girls on the Run. I am sorry I wasn't there to meet you. I was at the hospital.

Love, Mikayla

Saturday morning I arrived at the New Balance Girls on the Run of Charlotte 5k at 7:00 a.m. Tables were being assembled and trucks were maneuvering their way across the grounds with various items...water, fruit, happy hair supplies.

I surveyed the area and gazed toward the playground. I saw two girls playing with their father. The littlest one was swinging and her big sister was climbing on the monkey bars. Dad was standing patiently to the side with two jackets draped over his arm, a stroller by his side.

I walked over to the threesome.

"Hi. I'm Molly. What's your name?"

Big Sister jumped off the monkey bars and ran right over.

"MIKAYLA," she shouted. "I'm Mikayla!"

"Yes," I responded. "I know you! I got a fabulous card from you, Mikayla. So, tell me sister, why were you at the hospital?"

"My little brother is sick. He has leukemia." She ran over to the swings to join her sister.

I sat in the last remaining swing. "Wow. That's tough. How long has he been sick with leukemia?"

"He was diagnosed just a few weeks ago," their Dad shared. "The chemo treatments are making him sick with a fever, so hes' back at the hospital. My wife is there with him this morning."

Jessica, the Program Coordinator for the Girls on the Run of Charlotte council, had told me about this situation. Not only was this family dealing with a severely sick little boy, but they were also battling financial challenges that had left them without a home and living in a motel.

I took Mikayla's hand and called over her sister.

"Ya'll come with me. I want to give you something."

A booth was set up displaying all the Girls on the Run apparel and merchandise. Each girl picked a favorite shirt off the table and put them on.

We strolled back over to the playground, the girls giggling, and talking about how excited they were to color spray their hair, be with all of their freinds from school and start the 5k at 9:00 a.m.

At approximately 9:45, Mikayla crossed the finish line. Her dad and little sister were waiting there for her. The three of them embraced...a deep kind of embrace that symbolized more than just this moment, this day...this memory. It was a pause, a reflection--a call to heaven for hope, miracles and strength.

I've yet to find the words to describe what I felt then or what I feel now as I write to you. I only know that I love and honor this father...this man...for waiting patiently, calmly and sweetly with a smile on his face and his arms open wide for his daughter to cross the finish line.

I love him for loving her so much that he found a way to put aside, for this morning at least, the challenges of fathering a very sick little boy and the stresses of a difficult financial situation, to openly share, a smile, a touch, this powerful moment in the lives of his children...and mine.

I was overwhelmed by it then and am overcome with it now...this man's ability to love that much.


  1. What an incredible story...I am speechless. Each of your stories that you share are more amazing than the last...thank you for sharing and reminding us of the strength, ability to overcome and love that is shown to us through your program Molly. Mikayla will always remember this moment you gave her.

  2. Thank you for these wonderful stories. I am so grateful for all you have done for so many, many girls, families, dads, moms, brothers, communities, schools, on and on.