Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Princesses Racing to Give Kids a Shot@Life

It’s long overdue, but my family is less than a week out from heading to the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend where we are running for Shot@Life and I want to tell you my story, explain why we are running for this particular organization, and invite you to help us save kids’ lives.

A Bit About Me: First off, I’m not a natural runner. I'd rather have a nice big sticky bun for breakfast (see left) than get up and run any day of the week. I ran my first marathon 16 years ago at the 1997 Walt Disney Marathon because I felt I needed to show myself I could achieve something impossible. I hated running and I thought if I could complete a marathon, I would never again say to myself “I can’t do that. That’s too hard.” I was absolutely right and that achievement is at the foundation of many successes in my life…particularly the ones that involve becoming an international anti-poverty activist. I actually learned to enjoy 3-5 mile runs and it has become an important part of my mental and physical health. I’ve been away from long-distance running for over a decade. I’m returning now – post 40th birthday – to run for a life-saving cause, Shot@Life, and to inspire my own children to setting great goals.

A Bit About My Kids: I'm proud of my kids who are little global health lobbyists and always willing to take actions that help other kids. Last year, when I was running a charity 5K, my eldest wanted to run with me. I didn’t want to subject her to a winter morning run in Illinois, so I set up a webpage for her to raise money for running 2 miles around our local track when it was warmer. She excelled and showed me that she could be up to the longer race. Her jealous little sister even jumped into run a ½ mile just to show everyone she could. When I discovered the Princess Half Weekend involved kid races, too, I thought it could hold perfect events for each of us: a 400m, a 5K, and a half marathon. This will be a return to long distance running for me, first real races for the girls, a destination with nice vacation, and a symbolic last hurrah for our Princess phase as both girls were starting to say that they were “done with Princesses” and “into Pokemon.”

A Bit about Shot@Life: Since I volunteer for many different organizations, it was important to me that my girls pick the cause themselves. They chose Shot@Life, which raises money and awareness for vaccinating children in developing nations against polio, measles, rotavirus, and pneumococcal virus. They relate to this issue because they get their own immunizations and have seen me go to Uganda with Shot@Life where many children die from easily preventable diseases. They have heard me speak on behalf of Shot@Life, but to make sure that they understood what we were doing, I asked them to make a video about why they chose to run for global vaccines. Both girls said that they were saddened by the fact that every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from a disease that could be prevented by a simple vaccine. The youngest recalled her classmate was hospitalized for pneumonia, which is completely treatable in the U.S., but deadly in a country where children cannot get to a doctor. They are cheered by the knowledge that $20 can save a child from four deadly diseases. Every time someone donates, they are genuinely excited. Saving lives together is brings a sense of purpose to our goal that we’re all very proud of.

A Bit About the Races: A fun part about the challenge is that costumes are part of the Disney Princess race culture. My 9-year-old and I will be running the Royal Family 5K as Pocahontas and Meeko. Long brown hair worn Pocahontas “Colors of the Wind” style in the Florida humidity will be my biggest challenge there! The 7-year-old is doing her 400 m dash in a hot pink running skirt and matching shirt. The shirt says, “I’m Fairy Fast” on the front and “Eat My Dust” on the back.

For my 13.1 mile race, I’ll be running as Princess Jasmine. Hoop earrings and a head jewel sewed onto the teal headband were the items hardest to get used to running with. The rest is teal colored Nike running wear and a “gold” bracelet that tends to turn my wrist green (oops!).  

A Bit About How YOU Can Help: I hope our story is inspiring to you and that you’d like to help us save lives, too! The best place to learn about how you can join the movement to protect children around the world from easily preventable diseases is http://www.shotatlife.org . Of course, everyone is welcome to donate to Shot@Life through our fundraising website at http://www.crowdrise.com/shotlife/fundraiser/cindylevin where you can see pictures of our costumes. It would be a dream to be able to say that we saved 100 kids lives by raising $2000. As of this time, we’re up to 80. Please help us get to 100! If I haven't convinced you, here are my girls to make the closing argument. Thank you!

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