I never dreamed I would run a half marathon in my lifetime, and certainly not as the mother of two toddlers who was 20 pounds overweight.
But then I learned about Rett Syndrome and an awesome nonprofit working to bring an end to it. Girl Power 2 Cure, a national group headquartered right here on Amelia Island, has a team that runs in the Disney Princess Half Marathon each year to tell the world about the devastating neurological disorder and to raise the funds that will one day cure it.
So a year after meeting founder Ingrid Harding, I found myself at the starting line for that crazy run on Feb. 24. I had lost those extra 20 pounds training for the run — and I completed the 13.1 mile adventure proudly wearing my Team GP2C shirt. Next to me, my husband ran with a sparkly purple skirt on…. which he had promised to wear if he raised $1000 for the charity.
The run was a blast, with photo ops with Disney characters all along the route, a jaunt through the Magic Kingdom, live marching bands and thousands of spectators to keep us motivated. In all, 26,000 people ran — and roughly 116 of them were on my team. We raised close to a quarter of a million dollars for Girl Power 2 Cure, more than doubling the goal Harding had set for this year’s team.
Rett Syndrome is devastating. The little girls affected by it are born appearing perfectly healthy, but then at about 18 months old they begin to lose their basic motor skills. They can’t run, often can’t walk, and say few if any words. All of this comes from one tiny gene mutation that stalls the production of a critical brain protein.
I met many of these little girls at Disney, and — let me tell you — despite their physical impairments, they are so beautiful and full of life. They’re stuck in these bodies that don’t work very well, but educators have found that their minds are still very sharp.
I marvel at the incredible, upbeat spirit of the Rett families. They have a lot of hope because they know Rett is reversible. Using the Rett gene, scientists showed that the symptoms of Rett completely disappear when the brain protein Rett affects is returned to normal levels. This was a huge medical discovery — showing for the first time that there was hope to cure a neurological disorder. Many believe the cure for Rett will lead to a cure for many other neurological disorders and forms of autism.
The only thing standing in the way of curing Rett Syndrome is the funding for the research it will take to find that cure. That’s why Harding and her team are willing to do anything — including run to the ends of the earth, or Disney, in our case — to help these girls.
During the run weekend, I met those sweet little girls who are fighing Rett Syndrome; parents who spend most of their time tending to their children’s special needs; and a mom who lost her little girl this fall, and still decided to come cheer on our team and tell runners about Rett Syndrome. I also met the Rett girls’ little brothers and sisters who ran in a 1-mile children’s run to show their support for them. This is a battle that we can all help to fight. I am so proud that I was able to be a part of it.
If you’re thinking about participating in the Disney Princess Half Marathon, let me tell you why you should run with this charity:
1) You’re doing it for a cause that will motivate you much more than just running for the sake of running — especially after you meet the Rett families.
2) Girl Power 2 Cure helps you with fundraising ideas and offers awesome incentives (ie. if you raise a certain amount, they refund you your race registration fee, your travel costs, etc.).
3) During the race week, you will get a huge discount on a Disney hotel and tickets to the Magic Kingdom for yourself and your family.
Would you like to run with us next year? Add your name to our signup sheet. I promise not to harass you, but I will send you an email this summer when we start signing up and training for next year’s run. Enter your name below if you’d like to be on my list.