2014 Team GSF SB Marathon is the GOOD

We are Humbled. Empowered. Grateful. Where do we even begin to thank everyone who made Team GSF in the Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon an inspiring success? 60 runners. Their friends and families. 25 sponsors. Our community. Countless energized spectators cheering us all on. And thousands across the world donating and supporting what we do. $80,000+ raised. Which means WE CAN DO MORE. You have all once again lifted us up on your shoulders and carried the SMA cause forward — making this run truly matter. Thank you. THANK YOU. Thank you.

Each year we are truly amazed at what a powerful event this is — life-changing for many. We ask so much of people — traveling to join us, fundraising, and, of course, training for a half and full marathon requires serious commitment to adequately prepare. And yet again and again these amazing people sacrifice precious time and energy for a cause greater than themselves. Every runner is juggling careers, family, life… many are also facing SMA and caring for a medically fragile child. Adding to their plate is rarely easy. But they do it. They choose to push themselves physically so one day those with SMA can experience the gift of independent movement too. They choose to stand beside the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation and the SMA cause, to tell their friends and family that this is a cause worthy of their attention. They choose to give it their ALL! And they choose to NEVER GIVE UP. in their incredible efforts!

The 2014 team had many first time runners, many firsts for distance, several PRs set, and one Boston Marathon qualifier. Many runners traveled from all across the country to participate and SMA families from all over were represented: Team Blakely (Utah), Team Miller (North Carolina), Team Owen (New York), Team Hayden (California), Team Lucy (California), Team Gwendolyn (California). And this year we were joined by the wonderful Team Sorel representing Rett Syndrome (California and Colorado).

Each year we host a pre-race dinner at the swanky Canary Hotel to celebrate the victory of what has already been achieved and a post-race pizza party to celebrate the run. During these parties the energy is palpable. Everyone is uplifted, feeling positive, and basking in a sense of accomplishment. And every year we are so inspired by the sacrifices that have been made by each Team GSF runner and so humbled to hear the stories of how the process of training and fundraising — pushing themselves in both endeavors — has helped better their lives, given them new perspective, allowed them to be humbled by the support they have received from so many.

From Jenny Deakyne: “I’ve never run 13.1 miles. Not even half that. I’m scared. Terrified, really. I know it will hurt. I can already feel it in my knees, and I’m nauseous just writing this. But I’m going to do it, and I know I’ll finish. My motivation? Victoria Strong. A Mother. Just like me. Met the love of her life, got married, started a family. Just like me. Had her first child the first week of October 2007. Just like me. Our Babies turned 6-months old, and her life was no longer just like mine. Her Baby, Gwendolyn, was diagnosed with SMA, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It is the #1 genetic killer of infants and young children. There is no treatment. There is no cure. Victoria didn’t get to wake up and train for this diagnosis. She didn’t get to chose if it was something she wanted to take on or not. She is running a race far more difficult than I could ever imagine, and she is doing it with immeasurable strength, courage, and grace. She and her husband, Bill, started the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing global awareness of SMA, accelerating research focused on ending this cruel disease, and supporting families impacted by SMA and other life-altering conditions. For Victoria, and all the Mothers caring for a child with illness, I will run this race.”

From Cherisse Lunt: “Dearest Lucy, Today I ran for you and although my output may be compared to the widows mite, I truly gave it my all. Finishing was all I could do today, but sometimes that is all that is needed. I kept thinking of you and I even cried knowing that what you do daily, with such a happy heart, is nothing compared to the small moments I really, really struggled today (and I was hurting SO bad). I love you so much and I am so grateful for sweet friends and family who waited and cheered for me and who ran their own races. So, for you and for all of our sweet friends with SMA. I love you to the moon and back!”

From Aurelia Thompson. “I truly have no words to describe how I feel. I feel blessed to be able to participate. Team GSF is so inspiring. I was meant to be matched with Miller and to join this amazing cause. Can’t wait to see you next year.”

From Anna Stump: “An amazing day!! 13.1 miles done. Your words and generosity took me all the way today. It’s Unbelievable how many incredible people there are in this world. Many lessons learned today for sure: 1) it’s good to push yourself to do things that aren’t comfortable, 2) you can always do more than you think when your motivation is something for someone else, and 3) the gift is always in the giving. Hit the repeat button – I’ll do this again!”

This year beautiful 9-year-old Sorel Kolendrianos joined the team with her amazing parents to complete her first half marathon! Sorel has Rett Syndrome and, just like us, the Kolendrianos family face enormous challenges each day. But Sorel is light. She is love. She is inspiration. Team Sorel came out in force from Colorado and locally from Santa Barbara with such positive NEVER GIVE UP. spirits. Sorel woke up smiling and giddy with excitement about the race, eager to put on her new NEVER GIVE UP. jersey and her new running shoes. And… they rocked the entire course. Sorel helped her mom, Megan, run her personal best!!! Sorel’s dad, Chris, ran with Bill and Gwendolyn the whole time and when Megan finished she headed back up the hill so Chris could also experience pushing their sweet girl across the finish line. It was completely emotional to see Bill and Gwendolyn and Chris and Sorel with many other friends surrounding them come through the end of the course together! Just incredible.

And as for Gwendolyn, this was her best race ever. She was really nervous the day before at packet pick up. Excited but nervous. But at her 5:00 am wake up, she was calm, focused and feeling fierce. When we arrived at the start line her fingers were tapping and she was so, so pumped and proud!

From Bill: “This was definitely Gwendolyn’s strongest half marathon yet and she did great through the whole race. I’m not going to lie, this year was a bit of a struggle for me physically compared to years past. But the adrenaline and emotion of the event carried us through to the finish. There were so many people lining the course to cheer on Gwendolyn and lift us up — our family, friends, and community. Countless fellow runners running alongside Gwendolyn and telling her how amazing she is throughout all 13.1 miles. I am the luckiest dad in the world to have the opportunity to help Gwendolyn do what she loves — run and race. And there is something incredibly uplifting and surreal about knowing we are training for and accomplishing these races together with so many people supporting us and our cause in the process. Huge thank you to Mike Paskin, Chris Kolendrianos, and Ace Bedich for running with us this year. It was reassuring to have the support!”

There are so many meaningful stories. So many lives touched through this process. This event is so much more than just a run. All through the training each runner is sharing about the SMA cause and inspiring new supporters in the process. Each runner signs up feeling excited about the idea of Team GSF but ends the weekend moved by the experience. Feeling the energy out there on the course is electric. Yes, this is so much more than just a run. It is POWERFUL. It is CHANGE. It is a BEAUTIFUL example of what being the GOOD in the WORLD can accomplish. And because of these selfless people, more research will be funded, more programs will be created, more iPads will be granted, more lives will be touched.

Team GSF, We hope the knowledge that your steps are changing the steps of the future helped those hills feel less steep. You are all heroes and we cannot thank you enough for being the GOOD.

A big THANK YOU to all of our wonderful sponsors. Each year we have the support of so many wonderful companies and foundations who believe in what we are doing. Without them, we could not accomplish as much. It really is that simple.

Another THANK YOU to all of our fabulous volunteers who help make everything fun, positive, and organized!

Also a big thank you for all the generosity and support of the the Snows and the Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon for creating an incredible race, supporting us in every way, and helping make it a catalyst for the SMA cause.

Be INSPIRED. Watch this year’s Team GSF in action. (Thank you PORTRAITS FOR CAUSES for capturing all the positivity) >>

KEYT News story about the team.

Read SB Independent article about the team.