Up at 3:00 AM in Phoenix, I boarded a ride to the Sky Harbor Airport for a Southwest Airlines flight to St. Louis, Missouri. After we landed, I picked up a rental car and headed South for the 1 hour and 52 minute drive to Cape Girardeau. (I also had a cup of Starbucks coffee on board!).
These photos have been delayed by an intense flying schedule I've had, involving no less than five flights from Phoenix to Missouri, Atlanta, Baltimore, Indianapolis and ultimately back to my hometown of Cincinnati. One of the best decisions I've made this year was also a blessing--being able to reunited with my friends Shannon and Amy Aldridge on July 24th.
On this day, their daughter, the late Sahara Aldridge would have turned 21. Sahara lost her life to brain tumor cancer in November 2007. I had the privilege of meeting this sweet little girl back in December, 2006. I was struck by Sahara's humility, her love and humor. Nicknamed "Hoops" for her passionate love of basketball, Sahara's jersey number was 21. In her memory, her parents founded a non-profit organization that I invite you to visit and support at: www.HoopsforLife.net for more information.
The funds raised from this annual event are donated to the Lucile Packard Children's Research Hospital where Sahara was treated in Palo Alto, California. It is the love of those of us who met Sahara, knew her, or heard about her that has also endeared us forever to Shannon and Amy. They are our life-long friends, and we will continue to hold them up in our prayers and love for their hard work and devotion to ensure that no other parent has to endure what they experienced with Sahara's diagnosis and subsequent cancer treatments. I compiled too many photos to share in one post. So, allow me to share these selections from the road--for now. Thank you for your patience!
I'm very proud to call this lovely lady my friend. Amy Aldridge co-founded Hoops for Life with her husband Shannon, and spearheaded a State Bill with Rep. Wayne Wallingford of Missouri called "SAHARA'S LAW". Through the duo's hard work, Missouri taxpayers can elect to donate a portion of their tax return each year to benefit pediatric brain tumor research in memory of Amy and Shannon's daughter Sahara, who remains in our hearts and minds every day!
Another dear friend of mine, Shannon Aldridge taught me one of life's most humbling lessons: that "Everybody is somebody". Shannon has more heart and soul than anyone I know. When his daughter, Sahara, asked him from her hospital bed, to "keep running" and to stay healthy, Shannon honored Sahara's wishes. Today, he is an elite runner competing in 100-mile events in her memory. He is extraordinary!
Shannon also has a sense of humor (which is another reason we're friends!).
Shannon wears Sahara's basketball jersey No. 21. The front of Shannon's own jersey contains the team name from the Lady Comets, Sahara's former basketball team. I don't believe in consequences. In this regard, I happened to meet Sahara's best friend from childhood later in the evening at a downtown restaurant. The stories I heard were heartfelt.
Here is Shannon addressing over 700 people at 8 AM in Kiwanis Park, advising us to be safe. He then led us in a beautiful prayer. After the event and over lunch, we sat together and I thanked Shannon for reminding everyone, "Never let anyone put you in a box and tell you that you can't do something". I shared with Shannon that this powerful message resonated in my heart, and I immediately recognized it from the Apostle Paul in The Bible. It is very hard to start and maintain a non-profit. Amy and Shannon succeeded, and I am persuaded that they are helping far more children and adults than they might realize!
Amy capturing the crowds during Shannon's message to each of us.
It bears repeating that I have never met kinder or more generous people than I did in Cape Girardeau. It was refreshing to be with so many loving people who are down to earth. They responded--as they do annually--to support Hoops for Life. I tried unsuccessfully over the past 5 years to participate. In 2014, I made myself a promise that 2015 would be my year, and by God's grace I made it back to The Cape! To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back!"
A group of Angels who push enthusiastic participants along the entire course, Team Triumph is awesome.
This amazing athlete fueled my determination to kick butt!
After the 5K, it was time for door prizes and more...
The Southeast Missouri Triathlon Team surprised everyone with a donation!
I'll end here with a laugh: This little boy "photo-bombed" me at lunch in Jackson, Missouri. This is absolutely something I would have done at his age (and probably today). Thanks for stopping by my BLOG Page !