This year marks the 15th Anniversary of Easterseals Walk with Me, a national walk and 5K fundraiser that brings the community together to raise awareness and support for families living with disabilities. Since 2003, over 230,000 people have participated in 615 Walk with Me events nationwide generating nearly $41 million to support families at Easterseals. MassMutual Greater Philadelphia has been a proud supporter of Walk with Me since its inception, working hand in hand to create opportunities for those living with disabilities and their families, caregivers, veterans and seniors get the services and supports they need to reach their full potential.
“Giving back to the community is fundamental to the way we do business. It is part of the fabric of our mission, vision and creed. As leaders, it is our responsibility to educate, empower and support our community. And in return of that commitment, the community educates, empowers and supports us. It’s an amazing lesson in the power of humanity and how we are all more alike than different.” – Harris S. Fishman, President & CEO
Disability is a part of life, and at some point, will touch each of us and those we love. Today and every day, Easterseals offers indispensable resources to more than a million people and families living with a disability annually.
"We all have such different stories and histories, but we all love our children unconditionally and want nothing more than for them to have rich and fulfilling lives,” says VP of Marketing, Cynthia St. Pierre. “Disabilities aren’t always physical and one never knows the battles that someone is facing. The tools and resources that Easterseals provides families is invaluable and it has been such an inspiration to watch these kids conquer skills and master milestones”
As every walk event is different and each participant's motivation to walk is unique, we reached out to some of our own associates to learn more about what drives them to run. Read on to be inspired by their stories and what motivates them.
MIKE HAGAN, FINANCIAL SERVICES PROFESSIONAL
When and where was the first run you competed in? “Rock Run Philadelphia November 2017”
Where is your favorite place or route to run? “Any Charity Runs and being outdoors”
Finally, why do you run? “I run as part of my health transformation- It’s been a key factor in my losing 115 pounds!”
SAFWAN MATTAR, TECHNOLOGY SPECIALIST
When and where was the first run you competed in? “My first run was in the spring of 2011 in Bucks county benefiting kids with leukemia. I started running about 8 years ago.”
Where is your favorite place or route to run? “My absolute favorite route is the 202 by-pass in Montgomeryville from the Horsham rd./202 intersection and going up towards Doylestown.”
Finally, why do you run? “It started for me as an exercise around the time I decided to quit smoking which was extremely difficult at the time as I could not run a full minute without having to take break then it turned into my “me” time. Especially when running outdoors it is a mood changer for me and helps me get rid of any negative energy and as years go by I compete with myself trying to beat the lowest time for a route each year. Today? I complete an 8k workout without intervals or breaks and I feel that it is such a great win every time and I look forward to my next run to beat that last record.”
GINA MAIDEN, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
When and where was the first run you competed in? “I started running in March of 2016. I set my goal to run Broad Street that same year, so, I signed up for every local race so that I could to get myself ready. The first one was the Shamrock Shuffle 5k, which I did with my daughter Devon. She came in third for her age group. I finished.”
Where is your favorite place or route to run? “My absolute favorite route is Valley Forge park. One loop of the park is 5 miles and it usually takes me under an hour to complete. This loop has about six uphill climbs and two downhills, it is challenging (to say the least) and very scenic.”
Finally, why do you run? “Exercise has always been a passion of mine, but running has quickly climbed to the top as my favorite. The first challenging race that I ran was the KOP 10-miler June 2016. The KOP 10, in my opinion is one of the hardest courses around. Most people who run this have already ran the Broad Street Run in May and would like to capitalize off of that training (Broad Street is “flat” and “easy” compared to this one). My experience the first time I ran it can only be described as “cathartic.” I started with the intention of not stopping, until I finished. At the first water station, I slowed to grab my cup and quickly scanned the area for my friends. I wanted to find them and make sure they were okay. The girl at the table who is an avid runner knew me and knew who I was looking for and she said, “you can’t wait, you must keep going so you can finish,” off I went, alone, no friends. Just me and my headphones pushing forward. By mile 8, which is mostly uphill, I had a ton of rocks in my shoes, because the course terrain is mostly the roads surrounding the KOP Mall, which only cars travel on. I stopped for the first time to remove my shoe and empty it out. When I stopped, I realized that I have got to make it quick or may not have enough in me to finish. I quickly got started again, and uphill I went. Any emotion that I had been suppressing came out, the flood gates opened-up and tears rolled down my face. Any person that had disappointed or upset me, I started to forgive. I started to appreciate my life, my husband and children and the one fact that I am alive, healthy and able to “wake up and put my two feet on the ground” as my late father-in-law used to say. But the thing that got me during that race, was thinking about my parents who weren’t so lucky and died so young: Dad at 48 and Mom at 58 both of lung cancer. They can’t anymore, so I will. Running helps me mourn them, to heal, to let go, move on and be at peace. It’s better than any pill that you can take or therapy session you could pay for.”
NICOLE D’ASCENZO, CASE MANAGER
When and where was the first run you competed in? “May 2017 – Broad Street Run”
Where is your favorite place or route to run? “Schuylkill River Trail”
Finally, why do you run? “As a kid I absolutely hated long distance running. I played soccer and the worst part to me about practice was running laps around the field. My hate for running didn’t go away until about my last year of college. I saw that one of my best friends finished her first half marathon and I immediately felt challenged. I wondered what it would feel like crossing the finish line of your first half marathon. I thought running 13.1 miles at one time was IMPOSSIBLE but I didn’t think I was any different than my friend so I it was kind of like “if they can do it, I can do it” thought process that kept running through my head. Just like that, my determination for running long distance races was born. That February I signed up for my first Broad Street Run. I got in the lottery. I trained and I was all set to run but I got severe bronchitis the week of the race and I had to drop out. I was so upset. I thought it was a sign that I wasn’t ready to run a 10-mile race. A whole year went by I was running recreationally but didn’t enter another long distance run until the following years Broad Street Run (2014). Again, I got in the lottery. I trained all over again and I ran and to my surprise I finished! My first run couldn’t have gone more perfect. After running Broad Street, I had all the confidence I needed to sign up for my first half marathon. But I quickly realized that the training was more difficult because I just started working full time. I had less time to commit to it so the whole time I was training, I was paranoid that it wasn’t running enough. But the whole 3 months of training I just visualized crossing the finish line. That vision gave me the strength to show up the day of the run. When I ran and finished I was crying tears of joy across the finish line. The amount of pride I had for myself was overwhelming and it was from then on that I have ran 3 Broad Street Runs and 4 Half Marathons. I just ran my 4th Broad Street Run on May 6th and plan on running a 5th half marathon is November! I can’t stop because crossing the finish line will never get old. “Why I Run” is to prove myself I can do it.”