Tag: running

Take a chance!

It’s been my experience that the finest moments in life happen when you take a chance, whether it be confronting a fear head-on or setting a goal that you believe is beyond your reach but deciding to tackle it anyway.

The first annual Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge 5K Trail Run/Walk in 2012 initiated a series of shining moments that resulted from taking a chance, both for me and others.

I first heard of the race when I received a poster in the mail at my business, Train Yard Gym & Fitness. The event set itself apart from other 5Ks we had been asked to advertise because it included use of a high-ropes course, zip-line and Alpine Tower at the Diakon Wilderness Center after the race.

I was quickly sold on the concept of a beautiful trail run, lots of adventure-focused activities afterwards and the fact that my entry fee would help the at-risk youths the Diakon Wilderness Center serves. I pulled together a group of 10 runners and hikers that year and we were off to see what this was all about.

That first race day unexpectedly turned into an opportunity for me to take a chance. I had been looking forward to the race for months, but a few days before the event I started having hip pain and honestly didn’t know if I could run. I decided to go for it anyway and ended up coming in first place among the females.

Was I ever happy that I didn’t let my fears hold me back!

That was just the beginning of many victories I’ve witnessed at the Diakon Wilderness Center. Nearly a year later, I offered a 12-week challenge program to help people get fit and develop a healthier lifestyle. The participants were making great progress, but I sensed they would benefit from a “face-your-fears” experience to show them they could break through the self-imposed barriers holding them back from being even more successful. My trip to the Diakon Wilderness Center came to mind and I was pleased to learn the center offers a ropes course experience to private groups.

suzanne

Suzanne on the ropes course

 

Our gang loaded up for a field trip and I was completely inspired by the three people in the group who faced this challenge with the most trepidation. Jill doubted she could make two steps up the cargo net because of the extra weight she carried but she surprised herself by climbing halfway. Suzie was deathly afraid of heights but she made it to the top of the ropes course platform and felt as accomplished as if she had just summited Everest. And here’s what Suzanne had to say about making it the whole way across the ropes course and down the zip line:

“I was terrified of heights. I knew I was going on a trip that included rope bridges high in the trees in the Amazon jungles and I wanted to see the jungle from that vantage point along with my friends. The ropes course and zip-line at Diakon showed me that I could overcome my fear of heights and check the Amazon jungle off my bucket list!”

Suzie climbing the cargo net to the ropes course.

Suzie climbing the cargo net to the ropes course

 

I was blessed to witness another moment of greatness when two women who trained in my Couch to 5K® program crossed the finish line of the 2016 Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge 5K trail race.

The training program is designed for people who could literally be starting as “couch potatoes”; it conditions them to be able to run the 3.1 miles of a 5K in just nine weeks.  At the beginning of the program, of course, this goal often seems unfathomable, especially when just 60 seconds of running feels like an hour, but with consistent effort it always works!

For one of those participants, Betsy, “Getting out of my comfort zone was literally going from being a walker to running a 5K. I feared the ‘Killer Hill’ [our affectionate name for a particularly challenging section of the course] and running on trails since most of our training was on roads. When we crossed the finish line it was the greatest feeling of accomplishment!”

Betsey (L) & Stephanie (R)

Betsey (L) & Stephanie (R)

 

And another Couch to 5k runner, Stephanie, couldn’t be happier with her reward for stepping out of her comfort zone.

“Trying to control breathing and the possibility of not being able to finish something I started were my biggest fears of running. After training for the 5K and finishing the Diakon 5K trail race, my running confidence increased tremendously.  I’m still running today and loving the beauty of being outside.”

This year’s Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge on Sept. 16 offers several ways you can take a chance and have one of those shining moments yourself!

•    Maybe you run road races but you’ve never ventured onto the trail. Take that step! I bet you’ll love the feeling of being even closer to nature in the woods.  You may even enjoy the freedom of not being quite as attached to your Garmin and concerned with your pace, because trail running is naturally not as fast as road running.
•    Maybe the goal of running for three miles straight seems completely unimaginable, just as Betsy and Steph thought. If you want to go after it, there’s plenty of time to make it happen if you start now. Our training program will begin July 22. You can contact me to join us or you can do it on your own by downloading one of the many Couch to 5K® apps available.
•    Maybe you’re not interested in a 5K but you have a fear of heights as did Suzie and Suzanne. We offer an “Adventure Elements Only” option at the event. What better place to confront your fears than with supportive staff and friends around you?

The best part about attending the Diakon challenge is that you are contributing to the mission of the Diakon Wilderness Center to help at-risk youth get back on track. These teens and young adults face their fears daily as they strive to overcome their past and step out of their comfort zone to learn new skills and coping mechanisms to move forward in a positive direction.

With the support of the skilled and caring staff at the wilderness center, their goal of turning their lives around is not out of reach.

Your participation in the Diakon OAC will help them shine!

Get full details on the event at diakon5k.org.
—Maggie Wonsick
Co-owner, Train Yard Gym & Fitness
www.trainyardgym.com
maggiewonsick@comcast.net
(717) 319-4881

 

Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once. Please review our comment policy.

Going the extra mile

This blog shares the story of how Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members went the extra mile to help adoptees participate in Girls on the Run®, a non-profit program that inspires girls to recognize their inner strengths and celebrate what makes them unique.

As an affiliate council of Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries, Girls on the Run – Lehigh Valley delivers sessions involving 10 weeks of dynamic discussions, activities and running games for girls in third through fifth grades, with each season concluding with a celebratory 5K event, completed by participants and “running buddies.”

 

JoAnn Carter, mother of two adoptive girls (Daysia 11, Jada 9)

My interest in Girls on the Run began when my girls brought home a flyer from Parkway Manor elementary school announcing the program. I thought it would get them off the couch and give them a well-rounded opportunity that teaches them confidence. I also thought it would be great to have the girls be part of a running team.

Earlier in the year, my oldest did very well running a Turkey Trot event. Even though my little one hates to exercise and was a little apprehensive at first, she ended up loving the program.

As parents, my husband and I supported the girls throughout the program. We provided nutritional snacks and even made cheese-stick and pretzel treats that looked like little scooters. But when it came to finding the girls a running buddy, we didn’t have anyone lined up for them.

Because the local council is sponsored by Diakon, and I adopted my girls from Diakon, I thought maybe the organization could help. I talked with the Girls on the Run program coordinator, who in turn reached out to Kathy Roach, executive director of Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. She asked for running buddy volunteers for the girls.

Crystal Wanamaker, who served as our caseworker during the foster and adoption process, felt she could not do the run, so she asked two of her co-workers, who are runners, to help out. They happily agreed.

Kristina Taylor ran with Daysia and Melissa Mulero ran with Jada. Crystal attended the event to support the girls and her co-workers, which I thought was really neat. The adoption was finalized in 2012, so the girls hadn’t seen her in a while. They were excited to see her, which added to the experience.

The race was wonderful. I was very proud of the girls. I lost my father in October, so the girls were running for their Pop and grandmother. They gave it their best shot and when they wanted to give up, they kept on going.

The support of their Diakon running buddies made this event even more memorable. They say it takes a village to raise children. It was so nice to see that Diakon continues to be a part “of the village” long after the adoption process is finished.

 

 

 

Crystal Wanamaker, Diakon’s Foster and Adoption Case Manager

As a case manager, I was involved with this family’s life for more than two years. I saw them on a routine basis, so when Kathy Roach emailed me about this opportunity, I was so happy. This is an emotional job, and I love it when parents keep us updated and involved in their lives.

The night of the event, I was at the finish line. I couldn’t believe how many people were there. The girls actually had multiple running buddies, so it was wonderful to see the outpouring of love and support for them.

Watching the girls and my co-workers cross the finish line was very exciting. I am so thankful that Diakon was able to be part of the event. For so long, I was the girls’ “constant.” They knew they could turn to me during a difficult time in their lives. They recognize that I am still here for them today. It means so much to me and I think it means a lot to them too.

Melissa Mulero, Running Buddy and Diakon’s Case Manager

Since I do run, I thought it was a great opportunity to be part of the program. The day of the race, which was held at the Lehigh Parkway in Allentown, Kristina and I met the girls to spend time with them before the race. The event hosted special activities that the girls could do. Both Daysia and Jada were very excited to temporarily color their hair all different colors and to apply temporary tattoos. We also met with the coaches of the team and the girls’ teachers—Mrs. Breinich and Mrs. Richenaker, who also were the girls’ running buddies. Together, we enjoyed watching a “mascot run” before the race.

During the actual 5K event, I ran with Jada in the third wave. Throughout the race, she sprinted then walked. I kept encouraging her, telling her that she was doing great and we are almost there. Her other running buddy, her school teacher, also encouraged her.

Before the race, Jada told us that her running time was 53 minutes for 3.1 miles. The most memorable part of the event was seeing her facial expression when she checked her time and realized that she had clocked in at under 52 minutes! She was ecstatic!

When I think of all the struggles these girls went through, and to see how they have bounced back, it makes me happy. I loved seeing them put forth so much effort into a wonderful program. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Kristina Taylor, Running Buddy & Diakon’s Family Support Specialist

What a cool experience to see everyone come together and run in the heat! I didn’t know what to expect, so when I arrived, I was taken aback by the magnitude of the event. There were tons of volunteers and parents. It was neat to see the community as a whole coming together. I am so glad for the opportunity to be part of it.

My runner, Daysia, was like a little gazelle. She would sprint, then slow down. We really balanced each other out—we were like a “see-saw.” When she was slow, I encouraged her. When I was slow, she did the same for me. Together, we pushed ourselves to the finish line. Daysia sprinted the entire length of the finish line and she had a huge smile on her face. I was so proud of her. It was awesome.

Girls on the Run is more important now more than ever. With schools cutting physical education budgets and social media adding to self-image pressures, it is wonderful to have an event like this. The girls learn it’s not about finishing first. It is about feeling good about yourself.  It’s about learning healthy habits that improve your well-being.

I played field hockey in college. I have always had the mentality to stay motivated and never give up. The Girls on the Run program teaches girls to believe in themselves and to learn from even the toughest situation. Even if you are not the first or best, it’s about coming together and staying positive for one another. Our world needs more programs like this!

I’ve been at Diakon for nearly 4 years. I knew about the program, but had never helped because I am so busy. I never took the time to step out of my comfort zone. Now that I have seen the event and witnessed how Girls on the Run touches the lives of girls—including the lives of our adoptees—I want to help even more.

I understand the obstacles Daysia and Jada have faced. To see where they are today is so sweet. I feel as if I was part of their family from the beginning. I enjoyed it as much as the family. It was so rewarding. I am already looking forward to next year’s event.

Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once. Please review our comment policy.

Running to invest in future generations

Key to Scott Habecker

Chief Operating and Chief Financial Officer

Diakon

 

My running partner quickly surveyed me.

 

I knew she was probably wondering how she had ended up with this “old guy” as her Girls on the Run “running buddy.” Sensing her skepticism, I attempted to break the ice with a variety of questions about her interests. Eventually, we connected a bit on the topic of music as she shared the names of favorite musicians such as Selena Gomez.

 

But we would soon connect on a different level.

 

As chief operating and financial officer for Diakon, I take every opportunity I can to learn as much as I can about our programs. In the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, we sponsor a council of Girls on the Run®, a physical activity-based youth-development program for girls in third through eighth grades, with a focus on teaching life skills. Each session ends with a celebratory 5k running event.

 

I attended the 5k to observe the program’s impact and also to thank significant sponsors. I accomplished both of those tasks, but gained so much more, particularly in my role as runny buddy.

 

When I arrived, the Lehigh Valley Parkway was already a sea of faces, participating girls, family members, program coaches, and others preparing for the event. Music blared loudly across the grounds while girls had their hair done, photos were taken and participants were organized and matched with their running buddies, volunteers whose goal is to be cheerleaders and motivators as the 5k progresses.

 

School busses continued to arrive until nearly 40 schools were represented and nearby parking lots overflowed with vehicles. I was amazed at both the scope of the event and its energy level.

 

I was soon introduced to my running partner, an energetic girl by the name of Qiara.

 

Following some pre-race stretching and energy-building exercises, the large crowd of girls and running buddies made their way to the starting line. A countdown commenced and, soon, we were off on the 3.1-mile course. Qiara and I were near the back of the pack, so it took us a while to have space to run. But as soon as we did, Qiara took off!

 

I had been told by her coach that she was quite a runner, a point that was quickly confirmed for me as she nearly sprinted the first mile. I began to wonder if I could possibly sustain the pace she was setting until I finally heard her breaths start to deepen. It was an almost-welcomed sound for me as tried to keep up.

 

Qiara advanced on her goal in a positive manner, also becoming more comfortable with me, chatting as we ran. She periodically asked for brief rests, then would take off again, sprinting as fast as she could go (which, by the way, was much faster than I could go). Eventually, she would slow to allow me to catch up, a cycle that repeated itself through the last half of the race. But the longer we ran, the more we talked and encouraged each other.

 

She was a great partner.

 

The last quarter mile or so, we could hear the large crowd cheering girls on as they crossed the finish line. The crowd was definitely motivational to Qiara, and her desire to finish the run intensified as we ran past the cheering crowd. Qiara finished the race with the same incredible level of energy with which she had begun, leaving me in her dust as I sprinted to keep up those last few strides.

 

I do not recall the time in which we finished the race, but I was told it was her personal best. That said, finishing the race is the only goal in the Girls on the Run event, and Qiara certainly accomplished that mission with great confidence. She had a special energy about her, and I was thrilled that she allowed me to be a part of it with her. Ultimately, she wanted to do better than she had done before and, afterward, she felt good about her run.

 

As someone who finds true inspiration in people who never rest on past accomplishments but are always ready for the next challenge, it’s easy to be motivated by such athletes as those who represented the U.S. and other countries in the recent Olympics. Certainly, they are inspirational but, sometimes, we may find inspiration closer to us. I know I did.

 

Qiara provided great inspiration to me that day. She and her fellow participants displayed great commitment to the goal of making it to the finish line, following weeks of preparatory work. I witnessed unrivaled enthusiasm for the task at hand and walked away with great appreciation for every participant, coach, supportive family member, Diakon employee and volunteer and sponsor that made the event happen.

 

I look forward to returning to the event in years to come, much because of the inspiration Qiara provided that day.

Because we review comments, they do not appear immediately. Please do not submit each comment more than once. Please review our comment policy.

Get started!

I’m too out of shape to run. I’ll start after I lose some weight…

Sound familiar?

Mike Leavitt (bib #113 in photo) felt this way for quite some time. He was an athlete in his younger days but work, family and life in general had taken its toll.

At 38 years of age, he felt scared and disgusted at how out of shape he was. And when a friend suggested joining a running program, he thought it was out of the question.

“I’ve never been a runner per se. With flat feet, bad knees and a larger frame, I’m not really built for speed. In addition, my energy level was really low. I wasn’t motivated at all. Never thought I could do it!” he says.

Crossing the finish line…stronger and more confident

Girls on the Run for third- through fifth-grade girls and Girls on Track for sixth- through eighth-grade girls are non-competitive, curriculum-based programs designed to build self-respect and educate participants about issues affecting girls every day.

The girls play fun games to encourage physical movement with each lesson centered on an age-relevant theme such as healthy nutrition, gossiping, bullying, and how to stand up for yourself. The girls complete a community-service project and participate in a non-competitive 5k race, the culminating event for each session of the program.

Here are comments from mentors and the council director about the current program….

Challenge yourself!

It seems as if a lot of people are participating in various running events throughout the central Pennsylvania region, whether “standard” 5K runs, mud and obstacle runs, color runs, or half-marathons. Perhaps you have already participated in some of these runs—or are interested in trying one for the first time.

The Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge is personally my favorite 5K race in the area. The beautiful trails, the fun and challenge of the high-ropes course and the Alpine Tower, along with the opportunity to see firsthand how Diakon Youth Services positively affects our youths, combine to make this a fun and unique event.

Whether you are currently a non-runner, beginner, or experienced racer I challenge you to put this Sept. 20 race on your calendar and invest some time this summer to increase your fitness level while preparing for it.