Friday, March 6, 2015

Fundraising Friday: Meet Hafsa Lewis LaBreche "Because in the wake of tragedy you can still find ways to celebrate life!"

Often times, my Fundraising Friday feature is written by me with quotes from the person who I feature. Today, Hafsa is going to tell you her story in her words about why she is running the 2015 Boston Marathon for the Brittany Fund for Trauma and Recovery.

"When I sat down to think about how I wanted to tell my story about why I am running the 2015 Boston Marathon, I couldn’t write it. I was stuck. My first attempts seemed too “newsy”, like I was reporting the events of what happened that day. I realized then that I have never openly talked about it from my perspective. It has naturally been tied to Brittany’s story but also to the stories of Mike, Charlie, Jason & Ben who helped Brittany too. As excited as I am to tell my story, I am also apprehensive. It is, after all, the most significant thing that has ever happened to me.

I felt my story needed to be told in a way that didn’t focus too much on the bombings and Brittany’s injuries. I wanted to focus on the Brittany Fund and the message that it’s sending and to stay positive. I questioned how I was supposed to achieve that if all I’m doing is talking about the day of bombings- you can see my dilemma here. Simply put, one story cannot exist without the other. The way in which I met Brittany and all of the others involved is the reason we became so close; it is the common thread that ties us together and how the Brittany Fund for Trauma & Recovery was born. After talking to B about my struggle, she told me to write from my heart, like I was writing to a friend. She told me to not worry if I sounded too grim or like I was bragging. So, that’s how I’m going to tell my story, as if I were writing it to her.

Dear Brittany,

I can’t believe that it’s almost two years after the Marathon bombings. I remember that day so clearly, so much so that if I close my eyes it feels like I’m right there. In the middle of the chaos, in a nightmare. When the first bomb went off, close to where I was standing, I remember thinking that it was a cannon going off. Like a celebratory commencement of the Boston Marathon and the Finish Line…but then I smelled it, felt it, saw it and the next bomb went off and then I realized it was far from celebratory.

I remember when I first saw you. You were standing, hurt, badly. Your leg was bleeding, so was your head and your fingers. I remember thinking to myself, “she needs help”. I don’t remember Mike, Jason or Charlie. I just remember you. I remember taking your arm and guiding you around the corner to Boylston and Exeter. There was a windbreaker- Mike had already tied it around your leg once but it had fallen off. I remember asking someone if it was yours. It wasn’t. So I retied it over the wound on your leg and applied pressure. I asked you, “What’s your name?” You told me your first and last name. I asked you, “How old are you?” You told me you were 28. I asked you, “Are you allergic to anything?” and you told me “Ibuprofen and Bactrim.” I kept asking questions and you kept answering them. You were strong. I was scared.

A firefighter came over to check out your injuries. I reeled them off to him and told him not to unwrap the windbreaker tied to your leg. He asked me if I knew you, I said “no,” and then he asked me if I would stay with you and I said “yes”. When he got up to leave, I thought, “he’s not coming back”- there were just too many people hurt. I didn’t think anyone would come back for us. But more help did come. It doesn’t surprise me now that Mike, Charlie and Jason got help as quickly as they did. They are pretty hard to say no to. They are remarkable.

What happened felt like a terrible dream. Especially in the days that followed when I couldn’t find you. I remembered EVERYTHING about you…I just couldn’t remember your last name! It was hard to find you because you also told me you were 28, which makes sense now because it was your birthday on the day of the Marathon, so you weren’t used to saying you were 29 yet. I can’t believe it took me a week to finally find you and that I had to get on a plane the day I realized you were okay. I thought that you had to amputate your leg. The relief I felt was equal to my concern the week I spent worrying about you.

I wanted to be “okay” so badly after the Marathon I think I convinced myself that I was. In my mind, I wasn’t the one who had been severely injured so I had nothing to complain about. When I first met you and John, I was so nervous. I didn’t want you to feel like I wanted anything from you; I just wanted you to know that I was so happy you were healing and safe at home. The moment I met you I felt like I knew you. I still can't believe we sat in your apartment and talked for over three hours, like we had known each other forever and the real reason we were there didn’t exist.

We have talked a lot about what happened on April 15th, 2013 and that has helped me in a lot of ways. What I love the most about “us” is that we concentrate on celebrating LIFE. We have traveled to exotic places, celebrated milestones in each other’s lives, rescued puppies, had amazing meals and bonded over wine and cupcakes (and don’t forget the dancing….our group is good at that). Until I met you, I had never been to a Red Sox game or a Pats game. It’s like the Marathon never even happened.

I think that’s part of how the BFTR was created, because even in the wake of tragedy you can still find ways to celebrate life. When you asked me to be on the Board, my immediate thought was “we are going to change people’s lives and I want to be a part of that!” When you asked me if I wanted to run the Marathon, I didn’t think about everything that would go into it. It just seemed like an easy decision. Run for the BFTR, run for those who can’t. The more money you raise, the more people we can help. What has come out of this whole experience is that gift and so much more. I have been challenged mentally and physically by what has happened. I have had to face some demons I didn’t even fully realize I had.

I am honored to run for the BFTR. I am energized by the opportunity to raise money that can help people in BIG ways. 26.2 miles seems like an easy feat when I think about what we have all been through over the last few years. In my attempts to find the right words to describe how I feel, I punched some terms into the thesaurus (yes, seriously) and out of pure curiosity I decided to see what pops up when you type in the word “marathon”: Lengthy, long-drawn-out (apparently that’s a word), grueling, difficult and epic.

Epic. That totally sums it up. How we met: epic. The BFTR: epic. Running the 2015 Boston Marathon: epic!

Love always,

Hafsa xo"

The photo was taken after the “One Run for Boston” April 2014 where we ran the last leg for “Team Loring” across the Finish Line on Boylston Street

From left to right: Mike Sokolowski, Ben Foley, Hafsa LaBreche, Brittany Loring, Alyssa (Loring) Tirella, Terence Tirella, Heather M & John McLoughlin (Brittany’s husband).

From left and right- Chris LaBreche, Charlie Gimber, Mike Sokolowski, Hafsa LaBreche, Jason DeSena

Charlie Gimber, Hafsa LaBreche, Mike Sokoloswki, Jason DeSena @ Brittany & Johns Wedding

Ben Foley & I as Mr. & Mrs. Clause at "re-birthday party" thrown for Brittany

Let's make this an EPIC fundraising Friday and donate to Hafsa's Boston Marathon run for the Brittany Fund for Trauma and Recovery.

To learn more about Brittany and the BFTR, visit my post, "People Who Are Boston Stronger: Meet Brittany Loring."

Journey well!

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