The Dream Team Project, through its founder, Lou Mongello, and countless volunteers, is working to help make a child’s wish come true. With your help, we can send a seriously ill child and their family to Walt Disney World with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation
Today I would like to formally announce my 2012 goal of raising money for WDW Radio’s Dream Team Project by running one marathon per month throughout the upcoming year. My first marathon of the year will be the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 8th 2012.
Then, from February through December of 2012, I’ll run a marathon each month in order to raise money for The Dream Team. I’m calling this “A Back-of-the-Packer’s Attempt at 12 in ‘12”.
OK – right about now you might be thinking that attempting something like this is a pretty goofy thing to do. Well, Goofy is my all-time favorite Disney character, so I guess this fits for me. But now that I’ve put my goal out there and I cannot rescind it (insert large gulp! here), let me take a few moments to explain why this rather goofy idea makes so much sense.
When I became a dad in 1998, I realized how much happiness a child can bring into a person’s life. I became motivated to help causes that benefited children in my area (New York City). For a bit of time, I was a docent a few weekends per month at the Bronx Zoo, where I tried my best to teach kids simple things about the wildlife that was present. I enjoyed the experience….but I wasn’t able to stick with it. Life got in the way. Then I volunteered as a Wish Granter for the Make-a-Wish Foundation in New York City. This experience opened my eyes to children suffering from life-threatening illnesses within less-than-affluent areas of the five boroughs. This experience was deeply moving…but again I was not able to stick with it. Again, life got in the way. Then along came 2005…
2005 was a very rough year for both myself and my daughter. Fortunately for us, we found two things to bond over – two things to make us smile whenever things really took a turn for the ugly: Disney and running.
My daughter and I would spend hours together flipping through the travel guides and websites, planning out our next long weekend in WDW, and then circle the date on the calendar. Knowing that our trip was only 105…..81….54….30 days away helped us deal with the rocky road we were both traveling on. We would both be so pumped up about our trip that we would hardly sleep the night before our flight. Once we got on the plane, our smiles were ear to ear…and they’d stay that way until we boarded our flight back to New York City. Then the planning would begin for our next trip the moment the flight attendant closed the plane’s hatch. Some of my favorite moments with my daughter have been in WDW.
In between trips down to WDW, I trained myself to run a marathon during the summer of 2005. Even though I made every rookie mistake in the book, I still enjoyed every moment since my daughter acted as my “coach”. She’d motivate me to get out there and run – don’t skip a workout. She was 6 year-old female version of Lombardi. The moment I crossed the finish line and draped that medal around my daughter’s neck was the moment that things began to change for the positive in both our lives.
As we both maintained our upward, positive momentum, I found Team for Kids (“TFK”). This charity running team raises money to fight childhood obesity in New York City schools by providing running programs. On November 6th 2011, 1,500 TFK runners completed the ING New York City Marathon and raised over $4 million for this fantastic cause. I’ve seen the programs they provide. Every penny is put to good use, and the values the kids learn – to work hard, stay focused, try to be healthy, and exercise regularly – stays with them for a lifetime.
So as I sat on a bench in Central Park one Saturday morning a month or so ago, I began to think of an idea that would allow me to incorporate many of the things that mean a lot to me. The result was this “12 in ‘12” concept. Personally, this year-long effort allows me to use something I love – distance running – to help children suffering from life-threatening illnesses through a charity that is wrapped around a passion for all things Disney. I’m also hoping that this effort will show people that you can do anything that you set your mind to, regardless of the difficulty. All you need to do is pick a goal, work toward it, and don’t ever give up.
As the New Year approaches, I will finalize my race schedule. As of right now, the preliminary list includes:
• January 2012: Walt Disney World Marathon (FL)
• February 2012: Surf City Marathon (CA)
• March 2012: Ocean Drive Marathon (NJ)
• April 2012: Gettysburg North-South Marathon (PA)
• May 2012: New Jersey Marathon (NJ)
• June 2012: Rock n Roll Seattle Marathon (WA)
• July 2012: San Francisco Marathon (CA)
• August 2012: Self-Transcendence Marathon (NY)
• September 2012: Disneyland Half Marathon (I’ll run 13.1 miles before the start of the race)
• October 2012: ING Hartford Marathon (CT)
• November 2012: Philadelphia Marathon (PA)
• December 2012: Las Vegas Marathon (NV)
This list may need to be altered at some point, for logistical purposes – but let’s hope not.
I plan to provide weekly updates on the “12 in ‘12” progress on the WDW Radio blog. In addition, you will be able to follow my tri-weekly updates on my own personal blog, The Back of the Packer. Subscribe so you don’t miss a moment of the adventure! I promise that these updates will provide you with plenty of opportunities to laugh with me and at me! Since I’m not a professional runner by any stretch of the imagination (I love Diet Coke, pizza and Oreos waaaaay too much to be confused with some elite runner), comments and feedback from all of you would really help keep me motivated!!!
Any donation to The Dream Team Project, regardless of the monetary value, will make a difference in a child’s life….and I cannot think of a better way to spend a dollar.
Until next time, make sure you double-know your shoe laces, pick a goal and stay focused!