Photo credit goes to speakup5k.com & the CKG Foundation
Before I share my story…
I am raising money for the Cameron K. Gallagher Memorial Foundation, whose mission is:
…to fulfill Cameron’s dream and legacy by being a positive force that works to cultivate awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety.
If you feel inspired by her story, or would like to help the cause, you can donate here. I am trying to raise $131 before the race next weekend, which coincidentally falls on my birthday. No cards, presents or Facebook wall posts, please. Just a small donation to a worthwhile cause.
Last weekend I ran 7+ miles, and my legs felt trashed. For those of you who know me, that might surprise you. Many of my friends know me as an avid runner. That’s in large part because I’ve met so many of my great friends… through running.
I haven’t run more than a mile since the SpeakUp5k back in September, and that was one of 3 runs over a mile that I’ve done in the past year. I’ve been focused almost exclusively on CrossFit as my training mechanism. My favorite aspect of CrossFit is, by far, the community. And the only other group I’ve ever been a part of in which I can share the same sentiment: running.
It just so turns out, there’s a lot of runners that workout at CrossFit Addict. Most notably, perhaps, is owner, Trey McFerren. Trey is no stranger to community. The guy knows just about everybody, and he treats them all like family.
My introduction to Cameron
Unfortunately, I never got to meet Cameron in person, but it was Trey who brought her story to me. He encouraged all of us at Addict to run the SpeakUp5k. He shared Cameron’s story, along with the incredible resilience that the entire Gallagher family has shown since the tragic day they lost their daughter.
The real introduction
That 5k was unlike anything I had ever been a part of. Put aside the thousands of people that came out to participate. Put aside all the money that was raised. This short, 5k run was my introduction to the amazing person that was Cameron Gallagher.
Never before have I been silly-stringed during a race. And the string of quotes that spanned at least a quarter-mile was every bit inspiring. I don’t remember what they all said, but I remember thinking, “Wow. Now I understand how this girl touched so many lives.” I slowed down to make sure I read each and every one of them.
It was, hands down, the best stretch of inspirational, heart-warming, butterfly-delivering poster signs that any race has ever seen.
I even crossed the finish line by walking on my hands, and I did it for one reason only: because I thought Cameron would have loved it.
I’ve run races for a quite a few different reasons. Some more meaningful than others. But none for as selfless of a reason as this one.
I’ve gotten away from the sport of running, and my run last weekend was solid proof. 7 miles used to be a jog in the park. But this half-marathon coming up will probably be the most physically challenging half I’ve ever run (out of about 10). But it’s almost better that way.
If I was in better running shape… going for a PR… pacing someone else… my mind would be on those things. But because I expect to struggle physically, I’ll need a place for my mind to go to get me through it. And what better way to do that than remembering Cameron’s legacy.
Teenage Depression & Anxiety
While I’ll never be able to understand what Cameron was going through, her story resonates with me.
Like many of us growing up, I was picked on a little bit in my elementary school years. And through my first 2 years of high school, still didn’t have many people I could actually call my friends. I was shy. Quiet. Reserved.
But probably the best way to describe it was… I was afraid to be myself.
I was afraid to SpeakUp.
My life, today
I’ve been very fortunate to meet amazing people along my journey so far. At 30-years-old, I still need to be reminded that it’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to be a little down. And probably the best thing I can do in times of sadness is: SpeakUp.
Too often we are pressured into thinking that if we’re not always 100% happy/great/amazing, then something is wrong with us. Or that any other emotion, aside from pure happiness, is a negative thing. That’s fundamentally wrong.
When someone asks the oh-so-familiar, “How are ya?,” I don’t always tell them, “I’m good.” Because I’m not always good. And none of us are. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Sure, I understand that now, but there’s a lot out there who don’t get it. And to expect teenagers to be able to process society’s pressure to be happy vs. the genuine experience of all human emotions… I can’t even imagine what it’s like. And I’m sure it’s worse now than it was back when I was 17.
It’s a real problem
Teenagers need to be coached how to become more aware of their emotions. They need to understand how their actions affect others, in both positive & negative ways. And above all else, we need to educate kids on the value of being yourself. Of speaking up for who you are, and not feeling even the least bit sorry for what you are experiencing.
Even today, I still need to be reminded from time-to-time to be myself. And when I’m feeling something, to talk to someone about it. I live by myself, and it’s really easy to keep my thoughts and feelings inside my head, and hibernate in my apartment so the whole world doesn’t have to know I’m having a rough week.
The CKG Foundation’s priority is to raise awareness through positive action. The keyword there for me is action. Do. Talk. Speak. Learn. Teach. Listen. Preach. Whatever it is, don’t be silent.
Fight. Finish. Faith.
- Cameron was a fighter. She fought the good fight, all the way up til the very end.
- Her family helped her finish what she started: an organization dedicated to spreading awareness through action.
- And now we need to have faith; faith that Cameron’s legacy will impact positive change in the lives of so many who are fighting the same fight.
On March 22nd in Virginia Beach… “let’s finish this.”
If you feel inspired by what you’ve read, please consider making a small donation here.