A couple of weeks ago, we participated in something special – our Ben was a Patient Champion at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon. It was the most amazing experience for all of us, including Ben, and one we’ll not soon forget. It made us feel seen, heard and celebrated. Again, amazing.
I had filled out an application for Ben to be a patient champion over a year before and was delighted to receive an email asking if we’d be interested. But the icing on the cake was that we were selected to also represent my company, Nationwide Insurance, on their sponsored mile. I was told that they like to have patient champions of associates so there was a real, personal connection. How cool is that?
Leading up to the marathon were some fun things – two photo shoots, one with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and another at our house for Nationwide Insurance. After talking with me to learn about Ben, Nationwide’s marketing department got working on a theme for our mile, and they picked, “Every Mile Matters.” The reason being that every little milestone in Ben’s life is a big deal. How easily they picked up on that detail about our little CTD warrior! I was so proud of my company at this moment, to be honest.
There were print ads, banners, social media posts, and the most awesome of all – a billboard in downtown Columbus, and an 8-story high picture of Ben.
The weekend of the race they held an Expo where runners would pick up their race packets, learn more about the Patient Champions (there were 24 in total), and purchase merchandise from vendors. Nationwide had a booth there and they had two huge banners of Ben, and people could make race day signs out of poster board that had Ben’s picture on them.
Race day was magical. It was so, so cold that morning, but our tent was in the perfect place. We could see all the runners starting on their first mile, then see them come down to us again at mile 12. Over 19,000 runners participated. There was even a band across the street playing great music to keep us pumped up.
Ben did so much better on race day than I predicted. He was running, jumping, dancing, and eventually, he gave high-fives to the runners. We saw friends of ours running (my sister as well), people smiled when they saw him, some went out of their way to come see him, and many times I heard runners say that they really needed to see him to give them the motivation to keep going. It really meant something to them, and that was so wonderful to witness.
We were all exhausted by the time it was done, but everyone agreed that we would do it again in a heartbeat. At the end of the night when everyone was gone, and my family was asleep, I cried. I cried because I felt like I would never have an opportunity like this again where I could actually do something great for Ben, that he’d never get as much recognition. I guess I was just overwhelmed by it all.
But for now, he’s still on the billboard and I have all the proof that he was a superstar for a time.