I woke up on the morning of March 18th feeling spent. Feeling drained and unmotivated. ‘Celebrating’ Hayden’s 5th birthday the week before had taken so much out of me emotionally. I knew 5 was going to be hard- so hard- and the month of March felt like it was swallowing me whole and while I was trying hard to get out of my funk, I woke up the morning of his 5K feeling like I had failed at my attempts.
I showed up at the park where 20-some people had already been setting up for over an hour in the freezing cold. An event for my foundation- for my son. And all I wanted to do was sit in my car and cry. Feeling ‘done’ with hosting events in his memory, wishing with all I had that he was with me- that I could stop telling people he died- that I would be able to tell them he was a spunky 5 year old who was beating the odds.
His birthday was taking me under- my grief was winning.
I got out of my car and started walking around the park in what felt like a huge fog. I still felt like running back inside my car and hiding. But as I slowly started to take it all in- started looking around at who was there- watching all these people moving around the park like a little 5K army- was humbling and moving. It didn’t take me long to SNAP out of it- to realize that yes, Hayden died. Yes, I want him back more than I want breath in my own lungs- but look at the GOOD that he has left behind. Look at all of these people out here on a freezing cold Saturday morning setting up for hopefully a packed house in just a couple hours.
And despite the cold- thats what it was- a packed parking lot full of sponsors, vendors, food, kid activities, runners, walkers, strollers, high school teams, family, friends, heart warriors, heart mamas- all there supporting our mission- Hayden’s legacy. Because of the cold, we had less people register the day of the event than years prior, but despite that, there were still over 500 participants, over 50 kids in the Fun Run, and around 650 people braving the cold, celebrating a very special boy.
In addition to celebrating Hayden’s 5th birthday, we also honored heart warrior sisters- 4 year old Aylin and 8 month old Isabella Conil- of North Bergen, New Jersey- both with a CHD called Tetrology of Fallot. We were honored to have their parents Julio and Yenni participating and expressing their gratitude for the support given and we hope the proceeds from the event will assist them in their journey!
I wish I could find a way to express how grateful I am to everyone who made Saturday the success it was. When I look back on March, I will of course know that it is another birthday we celebrated without him, but because of all of you, its so much more than that.
It’s about the committee of volunteers who spent over 6 months planning and preparing for one day. It’s about our neighbors who year after year help set up the event, man the grill, and stick around to clean up. It’s about my family and best friends who travel every year to be there with me to celebrate Hayden and his legacy. It’s about Pat from Home Depot who has been with us all 5 years and his smile brings a smile to my face no matter what I have going on inside of me. It’s about tons of DONATED FOOD from Blimpie, Shoprite, Nonna Lisa Pizza, Dunkin Donuts, Brothers Bakery, Villa Italia, and much more. Its about the Fun Bus calling me a month before the event and telling me they read what we are all about and want to fully DONATE their bus for the day because they are so touched by what we are doing- and Party Magic being there for the third year in a row, donating their time for the same exact reason. It’s about those delicious mini cupcakes all the way from SugarBabe in Bethlehem PA. Its about THREE EVENT SPONSORS!!! and all the other companies and businesses who felt our mission was worthy of a generous donation and of their support.
Its about high school kids running, walking, volunteering- just being there helping us build a future who knows Hayden’s Heart and will keep his legacy going for years to come.
It’s about having memories from this event to look back on and thanks to PhotoSesh and Real Arch Photography, we will have plenty. It’s about those Star Wars guys from a Galazy far far away… It’s about the heart community coming together- supporting one another- raising awareness for our children and for Congenital Heart Defects. It’s about all of you who took time out of YOUR day to honor Hayden- raise funds and awareness for our mission and for showing us year after year that even though he is not with us, he will live on forever in your hearts.