Sunday, January 25, 2015

People Who Are Boston Stronger: Meet Brittany Loring

Five weeks after "being hurt" (as Brittany references what happened to her on 4/15/13), Brittany Loring put down her crutch and walked across the stage to receive her combined degree in Law and an MBA at Boston College. Later that year, she got married and started a new job. Despite extensive injuries to her leg, arm, a fractured skull and shrapnel that could not be removed, she has a smile that lights up the room and a positive outlook on life as captured in this Dear World photo:

She is the definition of resilience with a generous heart and kindest of souls. Because she knew how the outpouring of kindness, love and support helped her to recover in the aftermath of 4/15/13, Brittany established the Brittany Fund for Trauma and Recovery.

BFTR was created to give back after so much was given to Brittany during her recovery. The notes, donations, and gifts from others helped move her along in her recovery, and she hopes to be able to provide the same comfort and care for others.We provide support to promote health and well-being for families and individuals affected by traumatic events.

Despite falling snow and temperatures, every stool was occupied at the Urban Paint Bar yesterday. As Brittany addressed the 45 people gathered for the Brittany Fund Paint Party, she said that she chose, "Cityscapes" the same painting she and her mom painted at a paint party the day before her life changed forever.

That painting hung in her hospital room and yesterday for Pam and Brittany Loring, a mother and daughter journey came full circle.

The room was filled with friends, family, other survivors of 4/15/13 and their friends and family. It was more than a fundraiser - it was a celebration of life and of what it means to be Boston Strong.

Here are a few photos that capture the joy of the event:

On Christmas Eve, Brittany presented a check to the first beneficiary of BFTR. Brittany recalled that moment with me yesterday and said, "I just wanted it to be so much more than what I was able to give her. We've got to raise a lot more money."

On 4/11/15, you will have the opportunity to join Brittany at the Boston Strong 2.62 Mile Benefit Run/Walk, 10am start, Winchendon, MA. Run solo or create a team for a chance to win prizes for the biggest team. Vendors, raffles, kid-friendly games, etc. to help raise money for the BFTR. All proceeds benefit the Brittany Fund for Trauma and Recovery with the mission of providing support to promote the health and wellbeing of families and individuals that have been affected by traumatic events.

You can register via this link.

Brittany lives with the effects of what happened that day but she does not let it define, defy or limit her. She lives with an attitude of gratitude, with grace and goodness. Brittany Loring is Boston Stronger1

Journey well!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fundraising Friday: Meet Bill McCabe and the Ironwill Challenge

"To run a marathon is nothing compared to what these guys are going through to recover." - Bill McCabe, 61 years old, Stoneham Strong

Although Bill McCabe wasn't physically injured on 4/15/13, he felt the emotional impact of the events of that day. He was stopped on Boylston Street and his family was in harm's way. They were miraculously uninjured although they were only 100 feet away from the 2nd blast.

On 5/19/13, he ran the Boston Marathon course to finish the race:

On April 21st, 2014, Bill ran the Boston Marathon and embarked on a journey of 2,620 miles to raise money for Marc Fucarile, a buddy of his from Stoneham who sustained life threatening injuries in the blast. The Iron Will Challenge is to run 26.2 miles for each of the 100 days that Marc was in the hospital. Marc endures severe pain each and every day and is recovering from head trauma, leg amputation and shrapnel in his legs and heart. As Bill shares on his Ironwill Challenge website:

"Marc is a warrior and his entire family are seasoned soldiers who reinforce his march forward. The road to recovery is a steep hill that will be achieved one step at a time. God has a reason for Marc Fucarile to be alive. He is living proof that one act of terror breeds one thousand acts of kindness."

Marc in indeed a warrior with an iron will. He finished the 2014 BAA 5K:

and the 2015 Disney Half Marathon:

After completing the 2014 Boston Marathon, Bill went on to run the Earth Rock Marathon in North Andover, Mass six days later. He then traveled to Beijing for the Beijing Marathon on May 17th. He took on the TARC 100 miler on June 7th. He has been steadily approaching his goal of 2,620 miles for Marc and will achieve his goal when he crosses the finish line of the 2015 Boston Marathon in a little over two months.

He is running a marathon on every continent and in March travels to Antarctica.

Bill is a man on a mission to raise at least $26,260 for Marc's ongoing medical bills and to honor his tenacity.

Please generously donate what you can to support Marc in his recovery. You can donate via GoFundMe or by check to Marc Fucarile Fund C/O Stoneham Federal Credit Union 40 Pine Street Stoneham Ma. 02180

To learn more about the Ironwill Challenge, Bill, Marc and for media coverage visit the Ironwill Challenge website.

"To Give Anything Less Than Your Best Is To Sacrifice The Gift"
~Steve Prefontaine

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Impossible is Nothing - Leave Your Doubts At The Starting Line #tbt 2009 Boston Marathon

So how did it come to pass that I went from being in a leg brace, using a wheelchair at times for mobility and facing an uncertain and rather grim future as a survivor of paralytic polio and 9 years of childhood domestic violence to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon? In December of 2006 I had been diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease and was told to quit my job, adapt my two story Cape house or move to one level, and hopefully stabilize my functioning at the level I was at which meant dependence on others or adaptive equipment to get off of a low toilet seat, communicate with others, get off the sofa and have limited mobility. I had difficulty with swallowing and speech and breathing and everything hurt.

In February of 2007 I got still in my living room. I asked for Divine Guidance. I had print outs from the New Age teachers spread out all over my dining room table. I was home alone in the midst of a cold, dark winter's day and in the dark night of my mind, body and Spirit. But not for long.

The words "I am so happy and grateful that I can create," jumped off the page.

Create? Create what? I was in menopause. I had to say goodbye to my award winning career at the VA ... and then this happened ...

From Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility:

And then I felt a stirring in my second chakra (only then I didn’t know it was my second chakra – I thought it might have been something I ate). I went over to my laptop in the corner of the living room and I wrote this poem:

Running the Race
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
Everyone around me filled with nervous fear
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
The polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.

Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone
and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse

"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.
Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
But with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist,
curly hair and a warm, broad smile
It tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.

I always wore those 'special' shoes
the kids they poked and teased
With no support and much abuse
with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.

Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else
and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.

Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
Suffered in silence, isolated from friends-
trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team
and they were on my side.

Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
Resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.
Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
For the first time in life, I could truly be me.

The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.

As poetry flowed out of me with images of joy, gratitude, healing, and wholeness, there were changes happening in my body.

I did quit my job in May of 2007. In October of 2007 I hired a personal trainer to see if there was something we could do to help me get a little stronger. She worked with me to build on the program given to me by Spaulding Rehab after I was discharged from outpatient care. By February of 2008 after meeting my initial health and fitness goals of getting off of a low toilet seat and being able to complete the assessment for health and fitness, my personal trainer asked me for my next goals.

From Coming Home:
At my six-month evaluation in February, I had dramatically improved in every area of the assessment. I had come out of my leg brace and I knew that I was on a healing path. Janine asked me what my next health and fitness goals were.

“Well I want to feel free in my body. I want to dance. I want to be able to walk outside and feel unencumbered when I take a walk.”

Janine wrote feverishly and we worked out a plan. She gathered up her belongings and had her hand on the doorknob.

“Wait. I have one more goal.”

Janine stopped and turned around.

“I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital. I know they have a Race for Rehab team and I want to do it next year.”

Janine was non-plussed. I don’t know what kept her from turning tail and getting as far away from me as she could. She came back into my house and put down her things. She said that the first thing I would need is a pair of running shoes. She told me that Marathon Sports on Beacon Street would be able to help me. She laid out a cursory training plan and said that we would begin indoors to build up my cardio endurance. As soon as the weather got a little warmer, we’d go outdoors and I would learn how to run.

Whether you are training for a marathon on the roads or facing challenges in the marathon of life - Believe - believe that impossible is nothing and leave your doubts at the starting line. Some miles will feel easy; some miles you'll wonder how will I ever make it through but keep going one step, one mile at a time and remember that impossible = I'm possible!

Journey well!

"Journey Well" and all of my inspirational books are available on Amazon.

"Journey Well" is a book about resilience, strength, courage and how we are able to journey well no matter what conditions life hands to us. I profile the people who are Boston Stronger and share how 4/15/13 was a wake up call to me to return to my healing path from contracting paralytic polio at age 5 and 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent.

50% of all book proceeds are donated to AccesSportAmerica where people of all ages and abilities achieve higher function and fitness through high challenge sports and training.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hot Food - Cold Beer - and a Cash Purse to Kick Cancer's Ass - What are you doing on Super Sunday?

Hey Boston! What are you doing to kick off your Super Sunday on February 1st? RACE Cancer Foundation is putting on a kickass race to kick cancer's ass.

Gronk has other plans

but he would love for all of you to warm up on Super Sunday with the 8th Annual Super Sunday 5K/5M race with live band, beer & food at a super post-race party!

J. Alain Ferry is the founder & chief energy officer at RaceMenu and Founder & President at RACE Cancer Foundation.

We run for beer & kicking cancer’s ass.

RACE Cancer Foundation produces kick-ass events to raise funds and awareness for charitable projects and organizations dedicated to kicking cancer’s ass. We also manage Team RaceMenu, a grassroots racing program comprised of endurance athletes competing at all levels, from recreational to professional. Based in Boston, RACE (dba RACE Cancer Foundation) is a Massachusetts non-profit organization and federally recognized as 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity.

His passion, his sense of purpose and great taste in beer, food and music rival none and are a winning combination when it comes to putting on events.

"100% of Super Sunday proceeds go to charity. For 2015, our beneficiaries are TargetCancer Foundation, Joe Andruzzi Foundation, and Cancer Resource Foundation."

Here's Alain presenting a check for $10,000 to TargetCancer Foundation after last year's Super Sunday race:

Cancer survivors race free.

Not running? Not a problem! You can volunteer (like me) and get all the benefits of running complete with a special edition t-shirt and entry into the post race party. Plus you get to hang with Alain and his crew working together at this premier event.

You can register at RaceMenu.

Oh and speaking of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, Alain is running the 2015 Boston Marathon to raise money for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation...but that's a blog post for another day!

Journey well and kick off Super Sunday to kick cancer's ass!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Wings for a Flower" and Free Wheelchair Mission

We met at the Brookline Town pool in an aquatics class over six years ago. While running laps and working out, we struck up a conversation. When Ellen Gaffney learned that I am a survivor of paralytic polio, she told me about her involvement with the Free Wheelchair Mission.

Free Wheelchair Mission is a humanitarian, faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides wheelchairs at no cost to people with disabilities living in developing nations. In collaboration with a network of like-minded partners, FWM has sent more than 800,000 wheelchairs to people in 91 countries, providing dignity, independence and hope through the gift of mobility.

Knowing how rampant polio was in developing nations leaving many children and adults without mobility, placing them at risk to be beggars or worse, my heart and soul resonated to this cause. We attended their fundraisers and were blessed to meet the founder, Don Schoendorfer and his wife at a brunch at Ellen's house several years ago.

She told me about this children's story she was working on. She showed me the black and white sketches and told me her story idea. She was exploring publishing options and was taking incredible time and care to bring her creation to life.

We lost contact ... until yesterday.

A friend of mine messaged me on Facebook asking if I had any connections to children's publishers. I googled Ellen to see if she published her book and how she finally published it.

From the Boston Globe, "Author's First Children Book is Inspired by Special Cause:"
In the fall of 2006 she stumbled upon a class on making children’s books at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. It was there that she decided to illustrate her book with collages.

By using tissue paper for shadows, paper bags for land masses, and pages from clothing catalogues for fabrics, she worked to capture the colors and textures she had seen in India. Some spreads, such as a street scene that shows the passage of time from day to night, took her more than two weeks to complete, working four to five hours a day. Less complicated scenes took three to five days to complete.

“It is a time-consuming medium,” Gaffney said. “You can do collage a lot more loosely but when you’re trying to portray things realistically . . . it’s challenging and interesting.’’

Gaffney did not go into the art process unprepared. A lifelong crafter and creator, she knits, sews, and has taken classes in enameling and Japanese painting, among others.

However, her lifetime of artistic endeavors was not enough to convince nearly 10 traditional publishers to take on “Wings for a Flower,” a book with limited commercial value whose proceeds would go to the Free Wheelchair Mission.

After two years of fruitless submissions, last spring Gaffney started to consider publishing the book herself. She contacted Three Bean Press in Jamaica Plain. By that time, she had a draft version of the book that had evolved during her years of work. Three Bean provided some editing and cleanup help, but was most helpful when it came to designing the final book, she said.

Eight years and a trip to India later, she did indeed publish "Wings for a Flower":

Wings for a Flower is a 32-page picture book based on the true story of Lotus Blossom, a girl growing up poor, but healthy in Chennai, India. When an illness leaves her unable to walk, her world becomes very small: she cannot go to school or play outside.

An unexpected gift inspires a new hope and determination in Lotus and results in an uplifting change for her. It is a story about the power of a small gift, coupled with a child's strength,told with grace and beauty, and will captivate audiences of all ages.

All proceeds are being donated to the Free Wheelchair Mission.

While publishers may have deemed "Wings for a Flower" of limited commercial value, to each person who receives a wheelchair through the Free Wheelchair Mission from proceeds of the book sales, the book is priceless.

You can order your copies by following this link.

Journey well!

"Journey Well" available on Amazon, is a book about resilience, strength, courage and how we are able to journey well no matter what conditions life hands to us. I profile the people who are Boston Stronger and share how 4/15/13 was a wake up call to me to return to my healing path from contracting paralytic polio at age 5 and 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent.

50% of book proceeds are donated to AccesSportAmerica where people of all ages and abilities achieve higher function and fitness through high challenge sports and training.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I'm on a mission!

My regular blog readers know that I am a truth teller. Last night I had a complete meltdown about my injury and the status of my left knee. I was able to hold onto the feelings of gratitude that the injury is nothing more than a lateral meniscal tear and that there is degenerative joint disease with swelling. It is not life threatening in any way shape or form. It hurts and I'm frustrated I can't run right now but I was planning to take time off from running in the winter and focus on cross training. I was tired feeling the cumulative effects of spending so much of my life recovering from polio, from trauma, and from surgeries.

I went to bed early and released whatever needed to surface and clear through my dreams and my system.

When I woke up at 6:15am, I left yesterday's feelings to yesterday and I embraced the new day.

I am doing the 30 day plank challenge. I have to modify it given my age and conditioning. This morning I was able to hold it for 50 seconds.

I shook off any feelings of being tired, dressed for Spaulding's Aquatics Therapy class, had my breakfast and before my body knew what was happening, we were in the pool for Joint Integrity class.

I'm on a mission to heal, to feel a new kind of physical strength by using more of my body than I have in the past.

I'm on a mission to shed the image of myself as a polio and trauma survivor and go from this moment forward to experience my body and my Being in new ways.

Much of my 61 years has been spent in the shadow of polio, trauma, disease and surgeries but all that is changing and I am standing in my own spotlight.

I'm on a mission to claim my birthright to heal and to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. I'm on a mission to get back on the roads in better shape than I've ever been in to run. I can't wait to feel the joy of crossing the finish line as Team McManus again like we did this summer after running my first trail race ever with some serious elevation:

and I'm on a mission to set the world on fire with my message of how I learned and continue to learn to journey well ....

"Journey Well" available on Amazon, is a book about resilience, strength, courage and how we are able to journey well no matter what conditions life hands to us. I profile the people who are Boston Stronger and share how 4/15/13 was a wake up call to me to return to my healing path from contracting paralytic polio at age 5 and 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent.

50% of book proceeds are donated to AccesSportAmerica where people of all ages and abilities achieve higher function and fitness through high challenge sports and training.