A is for Ainsley's Angels

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason -- Always have and always will. Running saved my life and running now is my life.

Rewind to January 2011 – I was at the lowest possible place in my life. It was two years post-college and I decided to move back to my hometown. “Go back to your roots to regroup and get your old self back” I told myself. Prior to moving back home, in Fall 2010 my roommate in Baltimore asked me to run a half marathon with her. As a retired Division 1 athlete (who was probably up 30lbs post graduation), I said “sure” and thought it was a great idea to sign up… and not train. With a max 6 miles under my belt, I struggled 13.1 hilly miles in the Blue & Grey Half Marathon in Virginia. Despite the pain, I got the running bug. It turned into my happy place, it still is my happy place. It made Amanda her old self again.

When I moved back to my hometown I asked myself what was my purpose in life? “I’m an athlete” I answered…well not anymore, you’re an old washed up athlete, think harder. Okay…so I asked myself again, what can I do with the sport I love AND give back to someone in the community? Right then and there I signed up to be a Cross Country Coach with our local Special Olympics team. Fast forward to 2014 – four years later, running was now “my thing!” If you followed me on social media, you knew that. My girlfriend Ashley Johnson approached me and said “Hey, my aunt told me about this group called I Run 4, they pair runners with individuals who have special needs. She had her son Callen join the group, he’s waiting for a runner.” Wow, sounded intense, and the Facebook page seemed intense. Some lady named “Run Jodi" was popping up in my newsfeed EVERY day doing jumps and running crazy miles for this little boy named River. As I watched her excitement and joy I told myself, “I want my own River.” I officially signed up.

And then it happened, after 6 LONG months of waiting – I thought I’d get a buddy from California or Florida, somewhere “cool” compared to Pennsylvania. Well my wish came true, I got someone “awesome”, his name was Liam and he lives in IRELAND!  It was then on August 1, 2014 – I found my purpose in life… I am supposed to be supporting others…to use my legs for them, but more importantly, share my heart with them.

Fast forward to October 2015 – with a lump in my throat I typed up a long email to this guy named "Rooster" who is apart of Ainsley’s Angels. I’d seen them for well over a year now on the IR4 page and my friend Elice Johnson has an I Run 4 buddy, Lanie Warner who is with AA. If anyone could help me, I knew he could help make my dream come true, he would maybe let me borrow a chariot to bring to Ireland to race with Liam as I just booked a plane ticket to visit him and his family.

Three hours later an incoming call from Virginia Beach popped up on my iPhone and my life forever changed. While I think Rooster can sell a popsicle to a woman in white gloves, Rooster didn’t “sell” me that afternoon on the phone, he made me realize why I’m here in this world, which is what I thought, to support others. My mind new the answer as soon as he asked, but in less than 24 hours my mind made up the decision, I WILL bring inclusion to Southeastern PA.

Forward to present day – my life and heart is now full. Coming FULL circle, my first rider in SEPA was Callen, the little boy/family who introduced me to IR4 and my first Angels were Ashley and Elice. I have an AAmazing family I would have NEVER imagined having if you asked me 5 years ago where I would be in life.

Every day and every hour my life is full of smiling runners and riders and the most exciting aspect, this is just the START of SEPA. We’re a young and fresh ambassadorship and the future holds endless options. I helped make a dream come true in Ireland (and mine was made) and I’m also helping dreams come true in SEPA. Ainsley’s Angels has forever changed my life and I thank all of YOU for that!
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