What started as a camping activity for a Fairmont woman and her daughters has mushroomed into a area-wide hunt for rocks.
Wendy Ziemer had seen posts on social media about people painting rocks with inspirational messages and hiding them. People who found the rocks would then post pictures of their discovery, keep the stones if they held a special message for them or re-hide the rocks for others to find.
“I thought that it was a really cool idea,” Ziemer said. “All summer, I kept thinking we should start this in Fairmont, but I wondered how it would go over. Since we camp all summer long, we started collecting different rocks from the places we camp. Then we just started painting rocks.”
She researched the project, called “kindness rocks,” and learned more about it. The woman who founded the nationwide craze was inspired by the motto: “One message at the right moment can change someone’s life.”
“The original thought behind kindness rocks was just to brighten someone’s day or give them encouragement, but it’s expanded to where people just go out rock hunting,” Ziemer said.
Over their summer camping trips, Ziemer and her daughters, Gracie, 15, and Ella, 8, painted more than 100 rocks. On the backs of the rocks were instructions to post a picture with the rock on Facebook and then re-hide it.
Ziemer started a Facebook page called “Fairmont MN Rocks,” and in a little more than a month’s time, had more than 400 members.
“I was kind of nervous about putting myself out there,” she said. “Then, within the first 24 hours, there was a gal who found a rock that said ‘live’ on it. She posted a picture and said she was going through a rough patch and that the rock brightened her day. Right away, we had a success.”
Another recent post displayed a rock with the message “Always be humble and kind.” The woman responsible for the post wrote: “Found this on my walk in Armstrong. Carried it until I found a new hiding place and thought about what it said the whole time.”
“People take them to different towns. They travel with them and hide them, which is kind of fun,” Ziemer said. “I’m doing a couple of rocks that I’m sending to a lady in Georgia, who has a rock group there. She’s asked for rocks from all over the United States for her community Halloween party. I thought I’d do ‘City of Lakes’ rocks.”
Ziemer and her daughters use acrylic paint on the rocks and then coat them with Mod Podge, a glue/sealer. Both of the supplies are very inexpensive and are available at most craft, discount and variety stores.
“You don’t have to be talented to paint a rock, and it’s fun, too,” she said. “One afternoon, when we camped in Madelia, we painted rocks all afternoon. Our conversation is fun, and it’s great to just sit and chat.”
Even though the project is incorporated into social media, it has inspired people to leave their computers and venture out to parks, on trails and other public areas where the rocks are hidden.
“There’s so many beautiful parks in Fairmont, and the city does such a great job of taking care of them,” Ziemer said. “Even if you can’t get out physically, maybe you’d just like to paint rocks and have somebody hide them for you. It’s for every person of every age.
“I think that once the snow flies, we’ll probably stop hiding rocks. We’ll just gather some rocks to paint and have it as a winter project. It’s something groups can do too because it’s so inexpensive.” There have been local Sunday school classes and Scout troops that have gotten involved.
Ziemer hopes to infuse the area with more rocks in the spring.
“I’ve seen other groups that have held painting get togethers in different parks so I’m hoping to do that in the spring,” she said. “People can just bring their paint supplies and their rocks, or just show up. It’s just a great way to get to know people.”
In spite of the falling leaves blanketing the ground, people are still finding rocks, but there is one particular rock that remains stubbornly hidden.
“One of our favorite ones looked like a stick of butter,” Ziemer said. “Ella painted it and wrote ‘butter’ on it, but nobody has posted that they found it yet.” (Hint: It’s hidden in Gomsrud Park.)
Anyone interested in the project can request to be a member on the “Fairmont MN rocks” Facebook page. Once accepted, you can watch and follow the discoveries.
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AN 11-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome has been hailed as an inspiration after being picked to star in a new River Island ad.
Joseph Hale fronts RI Kids Squad advert, which launched today, and is seen beaming happily as he dances in clothes from the high street chain.
The Grimsby lad is one of eight children chosen for the new campaign in his first official modelling job, after being snapped by Zebedee Management.
Parents Andrew and Karen Hale told the Grimsby Telegraph Joseph has dyspraxia and global development delay, as well as Down’s syndrome.
Karen said: “Disability should not define them.
“Joseph is a person. His Down’s is a small part of him. There is a lot more to see than the face value.
“They have a physical disability yes, but people have preconceived ideas – you need to see the person beneath.
“There is a lot they can teach others about not taking things for granted and they don’t judge anybody.
“They still have the same thoughts and feelings and dreams.”
Joseph, who wears a “traditionalist” green collared shirt and black trousers in the ad, is already lapping up his new-found fame.
He said: “It was nice to show the video to friends at school. People can take selfies with me now.
“River Island made it comfortable for me and I really enjoyed it. I was trying to get everyone to dance to the music. It is good to be able to champion disabilities.”
In fact, he already has his eye on the next prize.
He added: “It would be great to do a shoot with Jaffa Cakes or Batman or with Smyths toys.”
Although it’s his first modelling job, Joseph has had a stab at stardom already.
Last month, he joined fellow members of the Zedebee Performing Arts Group when they auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent.
Zebedee director, Zoe Proctor told the Grimsby Telegraph: “He has done extremely well and we are very proud of him. This is a great way to celebrate diversity in the fashion world.
“We have a lot of talented models on our books and we work with a lot of models nationally.
“But it is great to have the first jobs for local children. It is really special.”
River Island’s Ashleigh Skinner said: “Joseph is a very special and sweet boy.”
She added: “From Batman to Jaffa Cakes, Joseph is a big fan of the classics and this comes through in his style too. Smart with a relaxed feel, he likes to keep things traditional.
“The film shows off Joseph’s fun personality and love of his shiny disco dancing shoes. His favourite thing to do is to visit his grandparents and he loves Jaffa Cakes.”
The campaign, for the Kids and Mini collections, features children aged three to 11 years, including YouTube stars and celebrity children and youngsters with mixed abilities.
A mum who appeared on this morning was praised for her honesty after admitting she had wished her Down’s Syndrome baby dead “in a moment of madness.”
A seven-year-old with Down’s recently amazed his mum by taking a snap of his “guardian angel” out of the window of a plane.
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Colts fan Brock Easley loses more than 400 pounds with hard work and encouragement from Colts Nation, Tuesday, August 22, 2017.
At his heaviest, Easley weighed more than 700 pounds. He couldn’t work, couldn’t drive; his life was basically confined to a bedroom in his mother’s home.
“I kept carrying this baggage, and it kept getting heavier and heavier until I could barely move a muscle,” he said.
“I ate and ate, and it nearly killed me.”
Looking back, he says he was feeding a hole in his heart that seemed to get bigger just as he did.
“Food was my anti-depressant.”
Heart transplant: Mom hears her son’s heart beat again for the first time in 11 years
Part of the overeating was a concentrated effort to push away the pain of his parents’ failing marriage, Easley said. But it got really out of control after he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in general studies.
As he grew bigger, his life began to get smaller. In college, he had a large circle of friends who loved his easy-going nature, his sense of humor and his kindness.
But when college was over and he moved into his mother’s home (his parents had since separated), he began to go out less and withdraw more.
His weight kept ballooning as he tried to find what he was missing.
“I was a compulsive over-eater,” he said. “I prayed for the Lord to take this humiliation off me. I felt like a prisoner in my own body.”
After years of stuffing down his feelings with food, he turned back to his faith. “I said a prayer, ‘God, I can’t take it anymore. I’m tired of being embarrassed, I’m tired of not being able to do things with my friends.”
Things like riding roller coasters, sky-diving and go-carting — thrills he has on his bucket list still today.
Now 33, Easley has been on a grueling journey to a new life for nearly five years. He started slowly, working with a personal trainer hired by his mother. He never considered gastric-bypass surgery, instead trying multiple weight-loss programs, including Slim Fast and Weight Watchers. He had some success, dropping 200 pounds in about two years.
That progress meant more than a number on the scale. It was a ticket to more independence. Easley shook off his insecurities, got a job in customer service and moved into his own apartment.
Independence felt good for the Indianapolis man, who was diagnosed with autism as a child.
Autism spectrum disorder is a neuro-developmental disorder that can impair a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It can also include obsessive and repetitive behaviors. Easley is considered high functioning.
He says this: “I may have autism. But autism doesn’t have the best of me!”
He maintains his focus on shedding pounds by eating less and moving more. He gets up at 4 a.m. six days a week and heads to a gym near his west-side studio apartment for three-hour workouts. Recently, he added an intense Saturday class in Carmel called Shred415.
Over the past two-plus years, he has charted his ups and downs in a most public way.
Easley is a big fan of social media, and it loves him back. He uses Facebook and Instagram to post his triumphs, feeding off the support and encouragement he gets from his robust online cheering section.
Among those cheering him on is former Indianapolis Colts cheerleader Allie Hosler, who has known Easley for six years.
He was a “huge dude” when they first met, she said, but he also was a huge Colts fan. She started seeing him at cheerleader appearances and other Colts Nation events and remembers thinking: “This guy is so genuine, and he lives for the Indianapolis Colts. That’s the type of guy I want to be friends with.”
Hosler said her friend’s weight loss has been inspirational.
“Colts fans all come with these great stories, everybody brings something special to the 12th man,” she said, “but Brock has this thing going — you feel equally inspired not only to support him but to do better yourself.”
Even at his heaviest, Hosler said she saw Easley as a joyful, faith-filled person. She, her husband and a few of the cheerleaders formed a friendship with him, occasionally going out for ice cream or his favorite treat, bread pudding at Fire by the Monon in Broad Ripple.
“He’s the most social guy I’ve ever met. We felt the best way to support his weight-loss journey was to be there for him.”
Easley weighs himself every Saturday on a bathroom scale. He acknowledges it has fluctuated a bit, but he’s proud to report his most recent weight was 325. His goal is to lose at least another 100 pounds from his 6-foot frame.
“I don’t want to be super skinny; that’s for the birds.”
He’s gone from a size 11X to 3X in shirts, he said, and from a size 70 to a 50 in pants, but he often wears his clothing baggy.
He doesn’t have any photos of him at his heaviest. It’s not something he wants to remember.
But his mother, a physician, hasn’t forgotten. Dr. Tommi Easley could see that her eldest child was eating himself into an early grave.
She remembers him as a chubby child in elementary school — he says he weighed 260 pounds at age 10.
He was a big eater, she said, but he was also active in sports as a child, which helped burn some of those excess calories.
“We always encouraged him to eat healthy. We did our best not to make him feel bad about his weight; you don’t want to do that,” she said. “I prayed for him every day.”
Now a hospitalist in Springfield, Ohio, she has watched her son’s transformation in body and mind with pride.
“Brock is a very inspiring person. He’s very determined, and that shows you the kind of spirit he has.”
Easley regularly shares photos from the gym, peppering his posts with inspirational quotes: “When in doubt, sweat it out.” “No time to waste.” “Be the inspiration.” “Rise Grind Conquer.”
He wasn’t always so enthusiastic.
“The hardest thing was getting myself off the couch. I didn’t like working out at first, but I got used to it. And I started seeing results.”
He points to a collage of photos on the wall in his apartment as part of his motivation. They include Colts team pictures and photos of cheerleaders. Easley has followed the Colts for years, but he didn’t go to a game for many years for a simple reason: He was afraid he wouldn’t fit in the seat.
He attended his first game in 2014; the next year he participated in his first Colts 5K.
“I thought I was going to be embarrassed.” Instead, he was rewarded with a steady stream of fist bumps and high fives. He walked the 5K again this year and plans to run it next year.
This year, Easley has season tickets to Colts games. And he has a game-day routine.
He leaves his apartment at 8:30 a.m. (for 1 p.m. games) to get a good parking spot near the state Capitol. Next, he spends time with the Bleed Blue Horseshoe Tailgating Crew. At 10:30 a.m., he is in Touchdown Town to wait in line for Colts cheerleader autographs and pictures.
He heads into Lucas Oil Stadium by 11 a.m. to get more pictures and to visit with other fans. After his rounds, he heads to Section 626 to grab his seat.
He routinely posts photos before and after every game, usually with cheerleaders.
When he’s not watching football or working out, Easley likes to read and watch movies. He’s a fan of “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” “Jaws” and the Justice League superhero comic books and films.
Fascinated by cookbooks as a child, he still enjoys doing a little cooking, particularly for dinner. For breakfast, he eats Special K or oatmeal with almond milk. Lunch is usually fruit, veggies and chicken. When he gets home from his job in customer service, he often has teriyaki chicken or tuna with veggies.
He prays, watches a little TV, then goes to bed between 7 and 8 p.m. so he can rise before dawn for his date at the gym.
It can be a grind, but Easley doesn’t look at it that way. “Losing weight is hard, but so is being overweight.”
He slips sometimes, but he has trained himself to recover quickly.
“Anytime I have a bad meal or snack, I recover by having breakfast later, around 11 a.m., and eat a light dinner. He kicks it up a notch in the gym, drinks more water and walks on the Monon or in Downtown Indy for an hour.
“I’m still letting go of this baggage,” he said. “I learned it’s not going to get easier, but I’m going to get better.”
Life has already gotten better, he said.
Next summer, he intends to climb aboard the the Valravn coaster at Cedar Point in Ohio for the ride of his life.
Call IndyStar reporter Maureen Gilmer at (317) 444-6879. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @MaureenCGilmer.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — One local family is speaking out about the most trying time of their life, in hopes of spreading a message that could save lives. Dave Miller was in a bike accident over the summer and paralyzed from the chest down. He is now learning to walk again and says he’s alive because of his helmet.
The Ironman is a race that takes determination.
“It was either running, biking or swimming up to five hours at a time,” Dave Miller said.
That determination defined Dave Miller.
“There was not a day that he wouldn’t be training”, his wife, Stacy Miller said.
July 1, Miller and three training buddies were riding bikes in Floyd’s Knobs. It was a path he’d ridden time and time again.
“They were on mile 30, 100 yards probably from where they started. They were coming down a hill and his friend said let’s make this last hill count,” Stacy Miller said.
“I remember hitting the car. I remember seeing the sky, and then I remember being on the road unable to move,” Dave Miller remembered.
Miller was unable to move, but he was alive. “That helmet saved my life,” he said.
The helmet was the only barrier between him and the car he hit head first.
Stacy Miller said, “When he got to the ER he wasn’t able to feel anything from the chest down so that was really a scary thing.”
Dave spent 12 days in the ER, and months in in-patient rehab. During that time, he learned to embrace the small things, because this has made them big.
“Every day he gets stronger,” Stacy Miller said.
“It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done mentally and physically,” Dave Miller said.
Moving to outpatient therapy made for a major milestone. The move brought Dave recovery and relationships.
One formed when he was still a patient on the tenth floor of the Frazier Rehab Institute. That’s where he met Gordon Kirkland.
“We’re in a race to see who walks first,” Kirkland said.
For both men, that’s a goal that starts one step at a time.
Kirkland added, “He’s been my inspiration, he really has. He’s a great guy.”
Dave says one day maybe the bike will be back. But for now, it’s all about his bride.
“I just want to hold my wife’s hand and take a walk down the street. That’s what I want to do,” Dave Miller said. “That’s what his goal is and that’s our goal,” Stacy Miller said.
The finish line may look a little different than it used to “life can change in an instant,” Dave Miller said.
The road is now a little bumpier than it was before, but Dave is paving it as a path of promise.
You can follow Dave’s recovery story on this Facebook page.
On October 28, there will be a benefit for the Miller family at Newlin Hall, Floyd County 4H from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be a silent auction and spaghetti dinner. Email email@example.com for more information.
© 2017 WHAS-TV
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An expected 10,000 people will take part in the Eversource Hartford Marathon. That number includes those running in the half-marathon, the 5K, a kid’s race, the challenge series, and, of course, the full marathon.
More than 50,000 people are expected to watch. Some to catch a glimpse of family members and friends. Others just to cheer on those taking part.
Most of those running aren’t expecting to win. For them, it’s not a race to be first. For some it’s a race just to beat their own times. For others it’s a means to exercise, or a way to raise money for a charitable cause. But everybody has a story. Below are some of the stories The Courant told this week leading up to the race and some of the stories the runners shared with us. The full stories can be found in the website links below.
Jackie Gustafson had cerebral palsy and was non-verbal. But BJ Williams could feel the joy she felt, pulsating up through the handles of the wheelchair he pushed, especially when they would hit a pothole or go over a speed bump in the road.
At the Fenway Park Marathon on Sept. 15, Williams pushed Gustafson in her racing wheelchair 116 laps around the baseball park’s perimeter.
And over the 26.2 miles, they bumped over the timing mat 116 times.
“Every lap, we’d go over the mats and if we were going fast enough, she would bounce,” Williams said. “She loved that. 116 times.”
Williams’ voice trails off. Fenway was their last race together as a duo for Team Hoyt New England, which pairs able-bodied runners with disabled people in wheelchairs. Gustafson, who was a Team Hoyt member for four years and raced with Williams for two and lived in Feeding Hills, Mass., died suddenly of complications from pneumonia Sept. 30. She was 17 years old.
The two were planning to run the Eversource Hartford Half-Marathon Saturday morning. Now Williams, 33, of Leicester, Mass., will run alone. But he won’t really be alone; he’ll be pushing Gustafson’s chair.
“Jackie won’t be there with me in her chair running but she’ll be with me in spirit,” Williams said. “She absolutely will be. Her family will be there. I don’t know emotionally what the race will bring.
“Training has been a little different since Jackie passed. I haven’t been able to find my niche or my zen. Some days are good, some days are bad. I’m hoping on race day, everything lines up. It will be a tough time.
“It will be, in my mind, our last race together. I’ll be sad, I know, at the finish.”
Williams was honored as a member of the Aiello Inspiration Team, sponsored by the marathon. In the last 10 years, he has run in 16 marathons and six Ironman Triathlons and over 100 races.
He was a hockey player first. He learned to play when he was 3, growing up in Longmeadow, Mass., and as a freshman in high school, moved to Lake Placid to attend the National Sports Academy and hone his hockey skills. He played junior hockey for the Bay State Breakers in Boston, in Italy and upstate New York. But on July 20, 2005, that all ended when Williams was involved in a car accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle.
“I woke up a couple days later in the hospital and I thought my biggest setback was that hockey was over,” Williams said.
He learned that he had a traumatic brain injury. His balance was off and he had sensory issues. But he was 21 and in prime athletic shape, which helped his recovery.
Six month later, Williams was watching HBO late at night and saw a story about a father who pushed his son in a wheelchair in races. Dick and Rick Hoyt, the genesis of Team Hoyt, have competed in thousands of races all over the world and inspired countless runners and disabled athletes; there is a statue of the pair in Hopkinton, Mass. in honor of their running the Boston Marathon over 30 times.
Williams was inspired to run a marathon. The Hyannis Marathon was in three weeks. He decided to try it.
“I ended up only doing a half marathon that day,” he said. “I couldn’t walk for about two weeks after. It was a good learning experience to see that the sport is not easy.
“But I was hooked after that, into running, triathlons, races, anything I could do to physically push my body.”
In 2014, Williams joined Team Hoyt New England. He met Gustafson and her parents at a fundraiser. She had been a team member for two years but didn’t have a running partner at the time.
“Her parents mentioned there weren’t many people in Western Mass. for Team Hoyt New England,” he said. “I said, ‘My parents live in Western Mass. If there’s a race, let’s do it.’ They’re like, ‘Well, St. Patrick’s Day is in two weeks in Holyoke.'”
Williams pushed Gustafson through the hilly 10K. He remembered it was freezing.
A few weeks later after the Fenway Park Marathon this year, Gustafson became ill.
“She had been sick for a couple days prior,” Williams said. “I saw her two days before in the hospital. There was nothing saying, ‘Prepare for the worst.’ It was pneumonia. We knew she had another infection but we didn’t think it would escalate to that.
“I was at work on Saturday. My wife sent me an email, around 7 o’clock, saying that her mother got in touch with me and said things aren’t looking good. I left work, went to the hospital and we were there with her when she passed.
“She taught me about not giving in and not wanting to quit. It was back and forth – it was me talking to her, then reading her emotional cues. We had some nice conversations. She was the best listener and always laughed about a lot of things I brought up. It was always fun to run together.”
Ed Rudman was in the best shape of his life. He had kicked a junk food addiction, shed 50 pounds, run a half-dozen marathons and, with his eye on a triathlon, was taking his first swim lesson when the stroke hit.
It was the first of three Rudman would suffer over a week-long stretch in January, prompting doctors to run a tube up his right side, tell his wife to pray if she believed in that kind of thing, and suck a blood clot out of his brain.
This Saturday, Rudman, 58, will line up for the Eversource Hartford Marathon, his first since the strokes. It will be the second time running the full marathon course; the first was in 2014, Rudman’s first ever marathon. Earlier that year, he had kicked a fondness for Whoppers and ice cream sandwiches after realizing that fondness verged on addiction. Rudman recalled being at a package store at the end of a workday, watching people buy nip bottles of liquor. He asked the owner why they were buying them. For the drive home, she said.
“It totally struck me,” he said, “because on my way home I would go into McDonald’s and order two or three large fries and a Coke and maybe a kid’s meal too – not because I was hungry but because I needed to have enough.”
“I said, ‘Holy crap – I’m an addict.'”
For years, Rudman had inflated and deflated on a seasonal basis – 180 pounds in the summer, 230 in the winter when he couldn’t bike. But his eating habits didn’t shift with the seasons. If he was watching TV, he’d pick up a 20-pack of ice cream sandwiches beforehand; on commercial breaks he’d run to the freezer and swallow five of them, and in an hour they’d be gone
Rudman didn’t touch booze, but sensed he was of the same genus as the package store alcoholics. And so he cut the junk food, embraced the juice cleanse trend and decamped to New York state for a weeklong ‘juice retreat.’ He didn’t know anyone there, and picked up running for something to do. When he returned, he told himself he was going to run a marathon, and scrawled on a piece of paper a goal of four hours, not knowing if it was possible. That October, he finished the Hartford Marathon just 20 minutes shy of his goal.
A few months later, Rudman fell into a group that called themselves “The Lactic Acid Droppers,” a band of roving marathoners identified by the initials LADs tattooed on their right wrists. Rudman ran races in Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and Washington D.C., and Hartford again in 2015 as a half-marathoner. In 2016, he logged 1,000 miles with his legs and another 1,000 on his bike. He was 50 pounds lighter, and was starting to think about a triathlon when the strokes hit.
In the hospital, Rudman questioned the timing of it all. He’d turned things around. He’d found something he loved and looked forward to something that didn’t come in a greasy fast food bag or the freezer section of the supermarket. And now the strokes threatened to take it all away.
“I don’t love to run,” he said. “Running is OK, but the best part is the people you’re running with.”
He was discharged on a Friday. The following Saturday, he walked with his wife to his alma mater, Rocky Hill High School. She never ran with him, but she did that day. They took four laps on the track together.
“You go to the marathon and you say, ‘Look at that lady who’s running all crooked,’ or, ‘Look at that guy who’s 280 pounds,’ Rudman said. “But that guy might have been 600 pounds last year. And that lady might have been paralyzed and she just learned to walk again. When you get into it and meet people, you see that everybody’s got a story.”
When it comes to running, a lot has changed for Amy Frey over the last several years. Not that long ago, her son signed her up for No Boundaries — a program offered at the Fleet Feet store on West Hartford to help runners build up to a 5K race.
Now she’s the one leading group runs — and grooming new runners for the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon, which takes place Saturday.
“As I progressed through the program and got faster and better, they asked if I wanted to coach and I looked at them like they were crazy and said, ‘I don’t know anything about coaching,’ but it’s really about giving back what I got out of it myself,” Frey said.
Fleet Feet has worked hard to nurture a strong sense of community among local runners like Frey. It has cultivated that camaraderie and built a strong group of runners who rely on the store for more than a new pair of shoes.
“You do think it’s a solitary sport, but for most people, you need a community around them to keep them motivated and keep them going,” said store owner Stephanie Blozy, who has spent nearly 10 years helping local runners build a running habit.
“Fleet Feet is more about that community hub for the runners that do like to have people around. You’re still doing it yourself, it still takes 100 percent your effort, but it’s nice to have a system.”
“What we do is the mom who is trying to get back in shape after having two kids, or the father that wants to do half marathon because it’s on his bucket list, or the new college graduate who is new to town and they want to meet people, and so we’ve kind of become that hub.”
Fleet Feet, and stores like it, have filled a growing need. According to the non-profit Running USA, 16,957,100 runners crossed a finish line in 2016. In 1990, that figure was just 5 million. The number of events also increased in 2016, totaling 30,400 across the U.S.
Every Wednesday at Fleet Feet on Farmington Avenue, dozens of runners meet up to weave their way through the the West Hartford streets for the weekly fun run. But it’s not the only group Fleet Feet serves.
Small groups of friends — often not affiliated with the store in any way — simply use it as a meet up point before they start their runs. Meanwhile, as many as 200 people are in training groups from distances ranging from 5K races up through marathon.
Dawn Conlon will be waiting for Chelsea Lamson, waiting for the feel of her friend’s hand to start the final relay leg at the Eversource Hartford Marathon. Standing there, waiting, waiting, with a million emotions running through her.
Two weekends ago, Conlon had grabbed that hand, hard, refusing to let go as the two ran together for their lives from a madman named Stephen Paddock. They ran from a hail of bullets that Las Vegas night at the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert, a hail of bullets that would leave 58 dead, nearly 500 wounded and a nation shaken.
On Saturday, the two Connecticut women will run together on Team CDDC, shorthand for the runners’ first names, to raise money and awareness for Donate Life. From Lamson to Conlon to the joy of the finish line, Conlon knows there is a fitting symmetry in this story. Then again, how can anything proportionally balanced and beautiful come from the horror of Oct. 1?
“Sometimes I can talk about this,” Conlon said this week at her West Hartford home. “Sometimes I get too emotional. It’s such an awful tragedy.”
Conlon had not been a country music fan until Lamson, from Windsor Locks, turned her and Mary Anderson onto the sound. The friends, who work at the Department of Transportation, began going to concerts in the area. Along with Anderson’s friend Ann Marie Gagliardi, they had planned the trip to Vegas and the three-day concert months in advance. They would celebrate Anderson’s 50th birthday in style.
Leaving on Sept. 27, they went to the casinos, had dinner at the Venetian, went to see Eric Church perform on Friday, even had special shirts made that read, “Good Girls Never Miss Church.” They went to see Sam Hunt on Saturday.
Anderson and Gagliardi stayed at the Excalibur. Conlon and Lamson stayed at a timeshare a couple of miles away.
Earlier Sunday, they went shopping and Conlon bought a huge dream catcher for her daughter Brittney’s 30th birthday. Anderson wasn’t feeling well, dehydrated. Gagliardi decided to stay behind at the Excalibur with her friend. Conlon and Lamson went on to the Jason Aldean concert.
“For Sam Hunt, we were right there, like 10 feet from the stage,” Conlon said. “Eric Church, Mary’s favorite, we were right up there. We had a great time, but I just wanted to hang back a little bit. We were to the right of the stage, in front of the Mandalay Bay.
“Jason Aldean was playing when there was this, pop, pop, pop, four, five, six of them. Chelsea has seen [Aldean] before. We thought it was pyrotechnics.”
All of a sudden Aldean cleared the stage.
“I looked at my girlfriend, I grabbed her hand and dragged her,” Conlon said. “Then it happened.”
Conlon starts mimicking machine gun fire, over and over. How long did it last?
“Forever,” Conlon said softly. “Time stood still.
“You heard people screaming. You heard people swearing. It was mayhem.”
As Paddock’s killing spree from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay continued for 10 minutes, Conlon and Lamson ran. They’d hit the ground. The shooting would stop. They’d stand up and run again. The shooting would start anew. They headed for cover between bleachers.
“The shots felt like they were coming from the sky,” Conlon said. “All I could think about was I’m going to get shot in the head.
“I turned around and Chelsea was screaming at the top of her lungs. And I couldn’t hear her.”
The enduring tragedy is the dead and wounded, yet the terror of the moment was in the unknown. In the midst of the chaos, the women found themselves trapped near a fence. They were herded into a corner, at the mercy of bullets, yet at the same time vulnerable to being trampled.
“A man finally knocked down the fence and a mass of people went pouring out,” Conlon said. “I grabbed Chelsea. She bumped into this big barrel, but there was no way I was going to let go of her. My mother instincts, you know, I have four children.”
One of them, Wayne Brookbanks, is my daughter Katerina’s boyfriend.
Conlon and Lamson found an entrance at the back of the Tropicana hotel. It was there Conlon ran from chaos to unforgettable horror.
“To my right, there was a guy who was shot and two girls were standing over him,” she said. “He was placed on, like, a table. It looked like he had been shot in the neck.”
They squeezed. The doors closed. On the elevator, an off-duty policeman said anybody who needed refuge could stay in his room on the 11th floor. So Conlon, Lamson and several others laid there on the floor in the dark of room 1170.
Conlon’s husband, Terry, recalls, “I woke up at 1:30 a.m. out of a deep sleep to her friend Chelsea calling. She said, ‘I just want you to know we’re OK.'”
Slowly, the questions are receding. Slowly, they are replaced by the sound of Conlon’s footsteps as she prepares for her relay leg. She has been running for 20 years, has run the Hartford half marathon five times. This time Lamson will run the penultimate leg. Conlon will be waiting to run the final six miles to the finish line.
“I was just talking to Chelsea about the race,” Conlon said. “It’s going to be hard standing there.”
As she waits, she will think about Chelsea scooping up a few people during the shooting to stop them from getting trampled. She’ll think about the young woman in a wheelchair, with green lights on the wheels, having a great time and wonder how she got out. She’ll think about the two women standing over the bloodied man at the Tropicana.
And then she’ll see Chelsea Lamson coming toward her, and the thought consoles her.
“You go through a tragedy like that together,” Dawn Conlon said. “We’re going to be friends forever.”
Lee Falk has been running her whole life: track meets in high school, jogs to keep in shape as an adult. But never as competitively or as religiously as when she learned a two centimeter-wide tumor was nuzzling her brain stem in 2014.
When doctors first found the tumor, they told her it was benign; so long as it didn’t grow, they said, they wouldn’t have to operate.
But by March of 2016, it had grown half a centimeter, and was squeezing her facial, acoustic and vestibular nerves. Falk was suffering from tinnitus, dizziness and an odd slackness in her right cheek.
She was booked for a June 8 operation. Not knowing what to expect, she dialed a hotline for people with the same condition.
“I talked to several people, and I heard horror story after horror story,” she said. “One guy had the surgery and a whole year later still couldn’t ride a bike, was still off balance.”
Falk didn’t know if she’d be able to run after the surgery, so she signed up for a race every weekend, from April 1 through June 5. As a physical therapist, Falk knew going into an operation in good health made for a speedier recovery.
But the races also gave her a weekly goal, something to train for and strain towards and complete, before moving onto the next one. The races helped her inch towards June 8 without dreading the passage of time.
On June 8, surgeons at Yale-New Haven Hospital excised the tumor. The next day, her sister pinned a race bib from one of Falk’s earlier half-marathons to her hospital gown.
In the weeks after the surgery, Falk, by then discharged and recovering at home, began taking walks around her Bristol neighborhood. Twenty days later, she walked to Bristol Eastern High School’s track, her old training grounds.
“I walked a mile, and then I said I was going to run. And I broke out into a jog and I ran a mile.”
In August, Falk ran her first post-surgery race, a five-miler in Torrington. The operation left her deaf in her right ear and prone to bouts of dizziness, but she finished.
At this year’s Hartford Marathon, Falk will be running the full 26.2 miles — “new territory,” she said. She’s never run a marathon before, but she’s been training all year with her friends. They line up to Falk’s left whenever they train, she laughed, because she can no longer hear out of her right ear.
On Saturday, 16 months after losing the treacherous growth behind her right ear, Falk will take to the starting line to check off her longtime goal of running a marathon. She was planning on running the full length of the Hartford course last year, but the tumor derailed those plans.
“I think of all the things I went through to be at that start line,” she said. “I have a whole future ahead of me.”
I run for my twin baby angels, Ava and Kiley. I run to support the Macie Grace Foundation, bringing awareness and support to pregnancy and infant loss. I trained for my first half-marathon in 2015 after they passed, as a healthy outlet at a challenging and grief-filled time. I continue to run for both mental and physical health.
For me, running symbolizes the perseverance often needed in life.
This year I decided to take on the full marathon in memory of Ava and Kiley. Through runs long and short, I can sense my girls are never far away.
Michael Luntta, Plainville
I am the first male Nelson in my family line to live to be 50 without dying or having a major cardiac event.
Yes, I started running 30 years ago to live. I cannot do anything about my genetics. However, those things I can control — my BMI, nutrition, cardiovascular workouts, stress, etc. — I can do what I can. Running has added years if not decades to my life.
Hartford will be my 45th marathon in 43 different states, and I am 58 years old.
Bonus: Running not only has added quantity to my life but quality as well. I identify as a runner. And a runner I am proud to be.
Randall Nelson, Austin, Texas
In 2008, I hit rock bottom because of my lottery gambling addiction. I was separated from my family, lost my business, gained weight and was in bad health.
In 2011, I discovered running. I’ve run 302 races in 152 towns in Connecticut and 10 states, from 5Ks to 50K. I co-founded Run 169 Towns, paced 21 half-marathons and volunteered at races. I’ve run in snow, rain, while freezing or sweltering. I’ve lost 32 pounds, regained health, refrained from gambling since 2008 and rebuilt my life.
Adam Osmond, Farmington
To read some of our other submissions, click here.
Courant reporters Lori Riley, Jeff Jacobs, Matt Ormseth and Kevin Vellturo contributed to this report.
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KEWANEE — Monday’s motivational speaker at the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center had a lot to show the inmates, and a lot to say.
Basketball handler Tanya Crevier, of South Dakota, has addressed school and prison audiences in more than 30 countries.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do something like this and just build them up,” she said before the program. “Some of these guys maybe never get a visit. Well, we’re that visit today. They’re all different, but they all need hope. They all need encouragement. When you have talent and share it, the blessings go off the charts.”
The 5-foot-3 ball of talent draws the audience into her presentation, getting basketballs spinning on pens, poles and spoons — while an inmate was eating off the spoons. She spun basketballs while doing push-ups, with her forearms and her shoulders, and while taking a drink from a bottle of water — with the ball spinning on the bottle. She dribbled two and three basketballs at a time. For her finale, she spun 10 basketballs from points mounted on various parts of her body. There were many smiles throughout the performance.
Before she started her routine spinning basketballs, she played an informal game of H-O-R-S-E, taking shots at the basket with two offenders.
Jeff Hepner, of Kewanee, a member of the Henry County Mental Health Alliance, served on Ms. Crevier’s staff for 15 years, finding schools and prisons for her to visit. He told the offenders she had been on a professional basketball team for three years until it folded.
He told the group he himself had been “at the bottom,” but an angel, his wife, appeared to him, and the second half of his life has been much better than the first.
He recalled people asked Helen Keller what could be worse than being blind, deaf and dumb, and she answered, “Having sight with no vision.”
“So, always have a vision and focus on it, and great things can happen to you,” he said.
Ms. Crevier said she cried when the basketball league she was in folded, but she relied on her own skills to get past that moment. Because of her talent at spinning basketballs with her finger, coaches, teachers and athletic directors began calling her to make presentations.
“I couldn’t have written the script of my life,” she said.
She told the inmates they will need to overcome discouragement from others.
“People are trying to drag you down, hoping you won’t make it,” she said. ”If you have a goal, then there’s a purpose, and you could never fail. If you don’t have the right goals, then you won’t have a passion. You won’t have a reason to work hard. Look at the possibilities; don’t look at the obstacles. Choose to make something of your life even while you’re in here.”
Ms. Crevier also will give a public program at Annawan High School at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The life skills facility, which opened in February 2017, serves inmates with one to four years left on their sentences. There are 99 offenders housed there. The facility is in the former youth center, which closed in summer 2016.
Warden Anthony Williams said while it’s too soon for official statistics on recidivism, he believes the Kewanee model might be important nationwide.
“It’ll be a game-changer,” he said.
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Each Wednesday we slump into work thinking about trivial things like the weather, traffic, money and how tired we are.
The hump day is the worst day of the week, it feels like we’ve been working for ages but we are still sickeningly far away from the weekend.
Instead of experiencing mass moaning in the middle of the week, you can find some Wednesday Wisdom here to take you away the negativity and propel you forward with some inspirational quotes.
There is nothing better than smiling at your desk for five seconds.
Here are 19 wise quotes and sayings that will build the positivity up one by one until you are full of Wednesday Wisdom.
1. The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. – Mark Twain
2. You can never plan the future by the past – Edmund Burke
3. Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission – Eleanor Roosevelt
4. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours – CS Lewis
5. He who has a why to live can bear almost any how – Friedrich Nietzsche
6. In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln
7. There are many ways of going forward but only one way of standing still – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
8. Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all – Aristotle
9. Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination – William Longgood
10. Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means you are two steps ahead of them. – Nannas Green.
11. Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. (German Proverb)
12. Counting other people’s sins does not make you a saint. – Hussein Nishah.
13. Keep your words soft and tender in case you have to eat them later – Andy Rooney
14. You never fail until you stop trying – Albert Einstein
15. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations – Zig Ziglar
16. Use what talents you possess; The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang the best – Henry Van Dyke.
17. In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on – Robert Frost.
18. The first draft of anything is shit – Ernest Hemmingway
19. Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King Jr
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Being surrounded by enthusiastic energy bubbles sure is a full time job and being a teacher sure has it perks. However, constant interaction with children and trying to match their zeal can surely leave one drained. Being a teacher isn’t an easy job and often, because teachers are humans too, teachers reach a saturation point where they too need some motivation to pump themselves up. In these weak moments, it is always better to take a breather and seek a little inspiration to boost one’s morale.
Here is a collection of inspirational quotes for teachers that cover different aspects of teaching and give a different perspective to difficult situations:
* “The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” (Dan Rather)
* “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” (John Steinbeck)
* “There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” (Charles F. Kettering)
“The teachers who get “burned out” are not the ones who are constantly learning, which can be exhilarating, but those who feel they must stay in control and ahead of the students at all times.” (Frank Martin)
*“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” (Wendell Berry)
* “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” (Carl Jung)
* “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” (Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Estrada)
* “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.” (Mustafa Kemal Atatürk)
* “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” (Chinese Proverb)
* “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats)
* Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” (Jacques Barzun)
* The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” (Mark Van Doren)
* Death is not the greatest loss. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.” (Tupac Shakur)
* “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” (Khalil Gibran)
* “The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it” (Samuel Johnson)
* ‘I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” (Einstein)
* “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” (Confucius)
* “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” (Lily Tomlin)
* “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.” (E. M. Forster)
* The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence.” (Amos Bronson Alcott)
* If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” (John Dewey)
* The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” (Henri Bergson)
* Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” (Plato)
* Learning is not a spectator sport.” (D. Blocher)
* Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” (Zig Ziglar)
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A LITTLE girl inspired by the bravery of soldiers has met a blinded Iraqi war veteran and captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people in the process.
Five-and-a-half-year-old Temperance Pattinson, from Darlington, was intrigued by strangers wearing poppies in her hometown and told her mother she wanted to show soldiers “how much she loved them”.
And her wish to meet a soldier has been granted after Help for Heroes invited the youngster to film a moving video with Simon Brown who was shot in the face by an Iraqi sniper in 2006.
A clip of the pair chatting about their lives has been viewed more than 200,000 times in less than 12 hours, with hundreds of viewers hailing the pair as heroes in their own way.
Temperance, who introduces herself as Tempy to the 38-year-old veteran, reveals how despite being scared of riding her bike, she overcame her fears to complete a sponsored triathlon to raise £350 for the Help for Heroes charity.
The organisation, which works to provide better facilities for British servicemen and women who have been wounded or injured in the line of duty, brought the pair together and filmed their meeting.
Tiny Tempy said: “I want to raise money for the soldiers because even though it is hard work and a challenge for me I thought if they did something nice for us we shouldn’t just wait around and let them do all the hard work, you should pay them back with something really nice for them.
“In my triathlon I had to swim, do a bike ride and then run. It was very hard for me because I am scared to go on my bike.
“I’m worried I might fall off and hurt myself or nearly break my knee. It was hard, but I think being brave is doing something you don’t think you can do but you carry on anyway.
“Soldiers have to be brave all the time. No matter how hard it got, I just really wanted to give them back a present.”
Mr Brown, from Leeds, was left with extensive facial injuries and scars after being targeted while serving in the Army 11 years ago.
The Darlington girl added: “I was so excited about meeting Si.
“I wanted to give him a special present. I went into a crystal shop with my mum to find something that was even more special than he was.
“I picked a tiger’s eye stone because it makes you happy and I thought it would make him feel like he’s with me again whenever he holds it.
“I have a special thing to remind me of Si, too. I bought a silver shell that will remind me of him.
“I think he is very brave. He had other soldiers to support him and he was supporting the others. I think it was really good because they have so much strength and they never give up.”
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