Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k Expands its Reach
By Ed Pfueller, UOAA
The cause of ostomy awareness was visible on streets and trails all over the country for two Saturdays last October. People embracing life again after ostomy surgery, people still struggling with recent hospital stays, nurses, family, friends, returning participants, and local runners, were all represented. Supporters cheered as 616 people ran, walked or rolled in this year’s Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. On Oct. 7th (Ostomy Awareness Day) and 14th, communities in Alabama, Arizona, Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Tennessee celebrated the resilience of people living with an ostomy or continent diversion by raising ostomy awareness. Another 139 runners nationwide opted to run/walk “virtually” in their own communities.
Passionate local organizers, over 50 volunteers, and local and national sponsors made this year’s events possible. UOAA provided logistical support and the proceeds the non-profit organization’s national education, advocacy and support programs.
Event locations expanded again last year adding venues in Mesa/Phoenix Arizona and Cookeville, Tennessee. Located about an hour east of Nashville the Tennessee event took place on the historic streets of the Downtown, Cookeville. Runners trotted under magnolia trees and along the historic main street of town before heading to the finish. Water was handed to them by representatives from Hollister, the Platinum sponsor for the year’s events who also hosted games of corn hole outside their sponsor tent. Nashville fashion designer Manny Cuevas, known for dressing some of the biggest stars in the music industry, was inspired to run due to his own personal journey with an ostomy. He was cheered on by family and friends and accompanied on the course by a daughter. Local organizer Deborah Nelson felt particularly blessed to have Manny there because of his resilience in light of medical setbacks, and also his advocacy. “He went to the state of Tennessee to get a proclamation enacted for the state to adopt this ostomy awareness day. Not only is he an advocate for nurses and other ostomates, but he is an awesome representative,” she said while awarding him the medal in the ostomate category of the run/walk.
In Arizona, the first-year event had a festive atmosphere. A picnic and music inside a ramada shelter welcomed competitors returning from a stroll along the lakes in Mesa’s Red Mountain Park. Local organizer Roxanne Camp who is a double ostomate was all smiles at the event despite being discharged from the hospital just a few days earlier. Her resilience is a testament to what the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k is really all about.
The largest event this year was again the founding 5k in Durham, North Carolina. Though the majority of the 164 runners did not have an ostomy, ostomate Collin Jarvis repeated as the overall winner. First-time participant Molly Atwater was easy to spot as she was supported by family wearing “Molly Olly Ostomy” t-shirts. “As a brand-new ostomate, the Run for Resilience was a mountaintop experience for me. To attend an event where I was surrounded by people who knew what an ostomy was – either having an ostomy themselves, supporting a loved one with an ostomy, or working as an ostomy nurse – reminded me that I belong to such a strong and supportive community. I talked with many people over the course of the run and shared my experience in my short three months as an ostomate, learning tips and tricks for dealing with daily struggles. The coolest part of the entire event was looking around and not knowing who had an ostomy and who didn’t. And with it being a 5K, that drove home the idea that there is nothing an ostomate can’t do. I walked the race this year, but I am determined to run the whole thing next year. It’s an event that I would never miss in the future.”
The event drew runners from hundreds of miles away and again took place on the scenic American Tobacco trail and featured a popular silent auction and sponsor tents. The always popular stroller division again made this truly a family affair.
A family atmosphere was also central to the 2nd annual Ostomy 5k in Boise, Idaho. Despite frigid temperatures, 151 runners suited up for the event. Children could be seen tossing golden leaves into the air as runners passed by. They got their own chance to run in a 1-mile kids fun run.
Runners in Portland, Oregon also braved the cold to run along the Milwaukie Riverfront Park in what was the third year for the event. The event also returned to Birmingham, Alabama where the weather was much more pleasant. The Birmingham Area WOC Nurses’ Association again generously agreed to host the event. This year it was moved George Ward Park in Birmingham.
You did not have to go to any of these locations to take part in a run however. Our virtual run simply means you can walk/run in any location of your choice. You can gather with a support group, friends or family. Participants walked/ran in locations from the mountains of Colorado to the shores of Nova Scotia, or even on their own treadmill. Each participant got their own race bib number and t-shirt to recognize the awareness day.
Some virtual gatherings took on a life of their own. In Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania the mayor came out to cut a ribbon and walk at an event that attracted over 50 people. Enthusiasm for the walk was generated by organizer and ostomy nurse Gina Day had recently started the first UOAA support group in the area. “The outreach I received was priceless. I met some amazing people along the way, and appreciate all the donations I received to help bring awareness to the forefront! I realized how many lives I touched, when they all showed up and walked right next to me. I can not thank UOAA enough for their guidance and support to make this event possible for our ostomates in the Pocono region! I look forward to next year where I can provide an official 5k walk/run for ostomy awareness in our community.”
“The local organizers really are the heart and soul of what makes this event so special, and I can’t thank them enough,” says UOAA Executive Director Christine Ryan. “Our dedicated sponsors enable us to bring the ostomy awareness event to communities across the country.”
UOAA hopes to see the Ostomy 5k grow even bigger and reach more people in 2018 when the event will coincide with World Ostomy Day on Saturday, October 6th. Tentative run/walks will be held in Nashville, Southern New Jersey and Harrison Twp. Michigan . Visit www.ostomy5k.org or follow us on Facebook for the latest 2018 event information. To be a national or local sponsor, start a fundraiser, or inquire about organizing an event in your community, contact Christine Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-985-9700. A heartfelt thank you to the following 2017 National Sponsors. Platinum- Hollister, Silver- Coloplast and Bronze- Convatec, Safe n Simple, and Hy-Tape.