Columbus Marathon 2022: Still riding the high

I sit here writing this with tears in my eyes, a very sore throat, no voice, exhausted like no other and with the a heart so full it could burst. Two years ago, this was a dream, a goal I had hoped we would reach for our Kai. We did it and it was amazing. I want to remember this day forever.

I can see why the Columbus Marathon is loved by so many, the energy is immeasurable. We were so excited to be a part of something so special from the moment we found out that Kai was chosen as one of the mile patient champions but man… nothing prepared me for how I would feel seeing these runners (thousands of them) coming by and high-fiving Kai as they ran past. Strangers cheering him on, even though they were the ones running, taking pictures of his signs, taking pictures with him and literally running out of their way to come over and say hi to him! People who had never met him before were saying things like “you’ve got this, Kai” or “you inspired me to run this” and BOOM – que the tears. These runners aren’t just there to run, they are there for these kids and it’s insanely humbling.

There was one moment in particular that really hit hard. A man running came up to us, said thank you to Kai and handed him a $50 Amazon gift card that read ” Kai, Thanks for inspiring me! Stay strong! – Steve S.” Wow, this man not only took time to train and run a marathon, he purchased a gift card and wrote a message directly to my child. A kid he’s never met. Steve S -whoever you are, way to go – you did it! And thank YOU! You impacted our family more than you even know.

Kai at Mile 8 before runners got there!

If you’re not local to the Columbus, Ohio area or not a runner (like me lol) then you may not know much about the Columbus Marathon. They don’t call it the most meaningful marthon for nothing. It is partnered with the local children’s hospital here, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and to this date, has raised over $11 million dollars for the hospital! This unique partnership involves the Nationwide Childrens Foundation where they select children who have been heavily involved in the hospital to line the entire marathon path at each mile to cheer on the runners. These kids are the face of the hospital during the event and are a good reminder to the runners of why they run and why they fundraise, to support a hospital that literally saves these childrens lives.

When Kai was chosen to be a patient champion for a mile marker, we were ecstatic. Each child was asked to choose a theme for their mile so naturally, for Kai we chose music. You know, he loves his drum toy and his playlist of favorite songs so it seemed appropriate. Kai was assigned mile 8, right at the corner of the hospital along the marathon course, which was AWESOME! Our friends and family joined us in their favorite band/musician shirts for music mile and cheered alongside Kai for 3 whole hours, like CHAMPS! We had to giggle to ourselves a little as we made comments about how tired we were standing there cheering, clapping and yelling all while people are literally running 13.1/26.2 miles past us. (Special shout out to my Aunt Chris for running the 1/2 and killing it!) We really didn’t have any excuses. lol We decorated with a music note balloon garland, light up KAI letters, big Kai “heads”, record disc signs, inflatable instruments and lots and lots of motivational signs. Kai’s Krusaders donated coffee, donuts, bagels, other appetizers and their own personal funds to his team fundraiser for the hospital. We danced (music mile, duh), jumped, clapped, yelled, shook tambourines and bells, waved signs, slapped Kai’s Krusaders stickers on runners, high fived runners and literally had a PARTY!!! And I’m SO PROUD that we raised $6,616 as team Kai’s Krusaders towards this years race goal.

Being a part of the marathon has just been another avenue helping to share Kai’s story and advocating for kids like Kai. I will continue to shout it from the roof tops and let everyone know how much of a CHAMPION he truly is. This kid continues to amaze me every single day. Today was no different, he proved to me he could handle something we were really unsure he would be able to tolerate. With a lot of loud, unfamiliar sounds and people, he sat along the course the entire time. Sure, we had our moments but for the most part he was happy, clapping, listening to his music, drumming his drum and just enjoyed being in the exciting atmosphere. Though he couldn’t see the runners going by he sure could hear them and, I believe, he could feel the energy from everyone. He is my hero.

Kai’s Krusaders cheering on runners!!! The BEST of the BEST!

I have to shout out ALL of the amazing volunteers, staff, doctors, nurses, therapists and whoever else from Nationwide Childrens Hospital. THANK YOU. Thank you for loving our boy, truly caring for him, his growth, health, progress and beyond. Thank you for supporting Kai at Mile 8, sharing his story and playing a huge part in his success story thus far and the role you will continue to play in his future.

Thank you to the Columbus Dispatch for sponoring our mile and supporting such an amazing cause. It’s not without crucial sponsors like you that they can make this race such a huge success. Not to mention, we know we got the best sponsor. 😉

Thank you to the Columbus Marathon organization, and of course I have to mention my cousin and marathon staff – Charissa Fee. Without you, we wouldn’t have even thought to consider doing something so incredible for our Kai guy. The fact that you guys choose to partner with the hospital and make such an unbelieveable impact on these kids lives is something I can’t thank you all enough for.

Lastly, Kai’s Krusaders. Man, I don’t even know what to say to you all. We continue to grow, adding more Krusaders along the way and I can’t even wrap my mind around all of you out there who would do anything for our boy. Truthfully, Danny and I would not be anywhere NEAR where we are today as parents and Kai would not be the same amazing kid he is now without ALL of you. And when I say all, I literally mean all. Whether you have donated now or in the past, if you’ve never even met Kai in person but share his story or pray for him… if you’ve been to a walk or been to all of our walks…if you been to fundraisers, shared on social media, see him and treat him on a daily basis… if you’re family and see him often… if you babysit for us or go out of your way to do things for our family. WE SEE YOU AND WE APPRECIATE YOU MORE THAN YOU KNOW. This journey of raising a medically complex child with a very unknown future is not an easy one nor one either of us would have specifically chosen, at least from the beginning. But you all make it a hell of a lot easier and we love you so much for that. I could never say thank you enough to express how much we really mean it. We love you.

2022 COLUMBUS MARATHON – KAI PIERSON MILE 8 PATIENT CHAMPION – THAT’S A WRAP!

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