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Running For The Kids

Greg Batton & Byrd Baggett

June 2014

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself."
Joseph Campbell


I want to share the following story written by Greg Batton about my friend, Gary Welch…

A human tendency is to believe that we will always go from point A to point B in a straight, logical line. But there are no straight lines in nature. Why then do we think our lives will be the exception? Look around you right now. Where are you in life? How did you get there? If you are anything like me, you marvel at the crazy journey that has deposited you here. Here's another quick nature lesson. You can tell the age of a creek by the number of bends and twists. Younger creeks are straighter than older ones. Through the years the water erodes the sides and creates a wonderfully interesting work of nature. I think people are like that too. The older we get, the more turns we can look back on. At least that's true of the more interesting folks among us.

The reason I am so obsessed with lines and turns and journeys has to do with a mission that started twenty-five years ago: the Memphis to Peoria Run for St. Jude. For 25 years individuals have given of their time and energy to run the 465 miles in order to raise money for kids with cancer. While the line on the map between Memphis and Peoria remains the same year after year, no one can ever anticipate what the run will do to their lives. Talk about changing your plan - that run will do it.

One such changed runner is Gary Welch. Gary turned to running only to help Dick Versace, former Bradley basketball coach, get ready for a charity run. He liked the way running made him feel, and it became part of his life. In 1990, some friends suggested that Gary take part in the St. Jude run. Thinking it would be a great ego booster to be able to tell his friends and colleagues that he ran from Memphis to Peoria, he agreed. In his mind the journey was mapped out. Make the run, raise some money for sick kids, get the congrats and pats on the back, and move on. What Welch didn't count on was meeting the kids in Memphis prior to starting the run. "I didn't know that we would be visiting the kids at St. Jude's in Memphis before we got started, "he says. "It changed everything. No longer was this about running. It was about helping."

Welch had encountered his first bend in the road. And the bends kept coming. Year after year, Welch and countless others like him would dedicate a little more time to raising funds for the St. Jude run as day after day the images of sick children stuck in their minds. It wasn't until 1995 that the big, loop-de-loop, cloverleaf bend occurred in Welch's life. Gary was attending a personal development conference on the East Coast. He was telling the Memphis to Peoria Run for St. Jude story to Dr. George Sheehan, author of Personal Best. Dr. Sheehan tossed Gary another curve in the form of a challenge. "Why not run for those kids every day?" asked Sheehan. Stunned by the challenge, Welch returned home in the fall of 1995 and could think of nothing else. Could he do it? Should he do it? Yes. Was it crazy? Probably.

On January 1, 1996, Gary Welch announced to his friends and family that he would run one hour every day for the kids at St. Jude. He hasn't missed a day since. Not one. As of this writing, he has run 3,244 days in a row. To add to the remarkable nature of this accomplishment, Welch has never been injured. And I should mention that he's 61 years old. Run

I asked Welch to explain why he thought he was able to run injury free and he couldn't really answer. My explanation is that when you are engaging your mind in something that you truly, deep down in your soul believe in, your body will protect itself. It's a team effort: body, mind, and spirit. The commitment that Welch and so many others in this community have made to the kids of St. Jude is also a team effort; runners, contributors, and organizers. The success of the St. Jude run, like Welch's experiences, could never have been predicted. The bends and turns in this creek are many. And as those who have participated over the past 25 years can attest, it has been a wonderful journey. Lives have been changed.

There is a very poignant sign hanging over Gary Welch's office door. As you exit the room, you can't help but read it. "Either you ran today or you didn't." He knows that that sign is not just about running. It's about commitment. And it applies to all of us.

I challenge you to get passionately engaged in something greater than self. That one commitment will keep hope alive for others and will allow you to live a life of significance.

True Growth Takeaway: Get passionately engaged in something greater than self and the true riches of life will follow.

Journaling Reflection: What one commitment can you make to improve the lives of others?

About the author: Greg Batton grew up in Pekin, Illinois and graduated from Florida Atlantic University. His itch for radio started in high school but he didn’t pursue it until he was 28 years old and marred with two children. Not your typical radio rookie, he has worked for numerous radio stations in Peoria and Chicago, Illinois. He is currently co-host of The Greg & Dan Show at WMBD in Peoria. He is happily married with four children. As he states, “These days, my time is spent rehabbing a home, chasing after the little ones, laughing, looking for good in all things of the world, and playing on the radio. It's a good life!

About the Editor: Byrd Baggett is a best-selling author and popular motivational speaker. He has been helping organizations develop authentic leaders and passionately engaged teams since 1990. His corporate experience includes sales and management careers with two Fortune 500 companies. He is a Member of LWM III Consulting LLC and creator of the True Growth brand.
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