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Support the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k at Events from Coast to Coast or with your own Virtual Run/Walk.

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA

Ostomate and two-time Durham Run for Resilience winner Collin Jarvis.

It was a hit from the start. Five years ago two ostomy nurses in Durham, North Carolina, Lara Leininger and Angela Richardson, had the belief that the ostomy community deserved its own awareness run and walk. “We wanted to educate the community about ostomy surgery and how persons living with an ostomy can achieve anything,” Lara says. “We want to encourage ostomates to be active and be proud of their resilience.”

Runners have done that and more at the Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k. Collin Jarvis lives with an ostomy and has won the Durham run two years in a row. Preconceived notions someone may have had about living with a “colostomy bag” are likely shattered when you’re left in the dust by a runner with an ostomy pouch.

Events always coincide with annual Ostomy Awareness Day or World Ostomy Day (which is held every three years) on the first Saturday in October. “This is our 5th year doing this race and we have brought a great deal of positive ostomy awareness to our local community and now nine communities nationwide.” The event also raises much-needed funds for UOAA to continue to support, raise awareness, advocate and provide educational programs for the ostomy community.”

Ostomy 5k co-founders Angela Richardson and Lara Leininger at the Durham, NC event.

Community members, families pushing strollers, and serious runners join in the fun every year on the scenic routes all over America. In North Carolina nurses and hospital employees also compete against themselves in a fundraising challenge, the victor taking home bragging rights and a golden toilet trophy.

“It’s awesome to see an ostomate finish first, but the run is also about all those who have come back from this lifesaving surgery and have struggled in life with an ostomy. You are all resilient just by your everyday accomplishments,” says UOAA President Susan Burns. Several people have walked at least part of the course just months after surgery, while for others it provides inspiration to set a goal, overcome fears, and run/walk this distance for the very first time.

“A majority of the public does not know what an ostomy is and if they do, most have a negative connection with ostomy surgery. There are a lot of myths that we try to bust. Those living with an ostomy live active lives, can be young, middle-aged, old, healthy, confident, etc. Ostomy surgery saves lives and a lot of times improves a person’s life!” Lara says. These 5k events are a visible declaration to communities that ostomates are here and deserve support. Stigmas melt away when people attend these events.

What was once was a North Carolina local event has known spread to nine locations nationwide. You can also attend or support 5ks in Portland, Oregon, Birmingham, Alabama, Nashville, Tennessee, Boise, Idaho, Harrison Township, Michigan, Pennsauken, New Jersey, Mesa, Arizona and East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Luckily you don’t need to be near an event to participate or support it. With the Virtual Ostomy 5k anyone can run or walk in their favorite neighborhood spot, or even on a treadmill. You can gather friends and form a team. We’ll even mail you out a free official bib number and a race tech t-shirt ($15) to join this worldwide event that takes place on World Ostomy Day, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. You can donate to runners or events near you, or on a national level.

The Arizona Ostomy 5k Fun Run/Walk will feature a picnic and games this year for World Ostomy Day.

This year’s World Ostomy Day theme is “Speaking Out Changes Lives” and the Run for Resilience is the official U.S. event during this worldwide celebration. All runs will take place that morning with the exception of Boise, Idaho on Saturday, October 13.

“UOAA makes an ostomy patient feel like they are part of a community and that they are not alone. They direct patients to support groups, answer questions, provide education, and allow them as a patient to give back by being a part of the UOAA. It’s best resource for anyone with an ostomy.” Says Michelle Pitylak who is organizing a first-year event on the shores of Lake St. Clair.

Also new this year is a 5k in the Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania and the Tennessee run is moving to the “Music City” in Nashville. Both events are timed and certified 5ks and organized by dedicated ostomy nurses. Nashville Fashion Design icon and ostomate, Manny Cuevas, is helping to make the event in Two Rivers Park one to remember.

Another first year of event will be a homecoming of sorts. United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) was founded in Southern New Jersey in 2005 and this year a timed 5k run/walk will be held in Cooper River Park in Pennsauken, NJ that has views of the skyline of neighboring Philadelphia.

The second oldest event is the Portland, Oregon Fun Run which returns for its fourth year. Runner and ostomate Lianne Weller is excited for this year’s run in the Milwaukie River Park. “I think the ostomy race is a great way to bring individuals, their family and friends together in a carefree activity. The 5k race also allows other ostomates to build confidence and breakdown barriers to getting back into physical shape; going one step closer to their goal. One particular aspect I look forward to when it comes to races like this, is being able to not let my ostomy be a barrier to meeting new people. I feel more confident and less self-conscious because I’m surrounded by individuals who have all gone through similar obstacles.”

The Central Alabama WOC Nurses’ Association is proud to bring the Ostomy 5k fun run to Alabama for the third time. Also returning is the successful Fun Run in Mesa, Arizona. Organizer and double ostomate Roxanne Camp is planning a great time at her picnic and 5k in Red Mountain Park. “Ostomies save lives they don’t take them,” is her personal motto.

Now in its third year the certified time 5k run in Boise, Idaho is a true community event. The driving force behind it is Megan Herrett, a mother of two children with an ostomy who wants to see her community be more accepting and educated about people living with an ostomy. If you attend prepare to be inspired by the young people running in support of their friends at this event. Attending or donating to any one of these events provides a public voice for the ostomy community nationwide, and funds raised ensure that the next person who has this life-saving surgery will get the support and information they need.

All runs are family-friendly and will feature sponsor tables and run bags. Several include a silent auction, giveaways, kids run, music, food and more. Check for information about an event near you on Facebook or www.ostomy5k.org, and Run, Walk, Volunteer, Cheer and Fundraise to support the ostomy community and UOAA!

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.

The Boise Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k is a family friendly event raising ostomy awareness. Photo by: Natalie Koziuk Photography (www.nkoziukphotography.com)

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.

Manny Cuevas after the Cookeville, TN Run for Resilience Ostomy 5k

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 christine.ryan@ostomy.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.

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