Supportive voices from the sidelines, the undeniable sense of positive energy from the participants and spectators, the determination on the runners’ faces – there is no doubt about it; whether you’re running, volunteering, or cheering, running events inspire and lift the spirits of anyone involved. The Grand Forks Marathon is set to take place next week and participating in the wonderful community event this year is the dynamic duo of Katelyn, a very special local 3-year-old, and a North Carolina man who runs for her through the I Run 4 organization. Every runner has a story; this is hers.
Our daughter wasn’t supposed to make it to her second birthday. When Katelyn was born, she was perfect. We held her in our arms and welcomed her into our family as our third child and only daughter. Katelyn; the name was timeless. I’ll never forget the road trip when we agreed on our “girl name”. It was four months before we were married. Here we were, given the chance to raise our beautiful Katelyn at last. We had dreamed of this moment for a decade, and as our family of five sat in the hospital room adoring her, we knew we were complete. Since she was our third child, the fear of raising another baby had worn off and we looked forward to enjoying the precious moments. On our last night in the hospital, she slept beside my bed while I chatted with my Dad on his drive home. Suddenly she cried out and I looked to see her turning blue. I said “I’ve got to go!” and hung up to call the nurse. This was the first seizure we recognized, and it had taken such a strong hold on her brain that she wasn’t able to breathe. Days in the hospital turned into months, as the tests mounted and we met with countless specialized doctors at different hospitals. As her seizures remained consistent and grew in severity, we grew more fearful of what life would mean for Katelyn. How long will she live? Is she blind? What can she do? Will she get out of the hospital alive? What do we want her to do, feel, and see before we lose her?
All of the tests, doctors, and hospitals concluded that our daughter is genetically different. The only medical conclusion is she is “undiagnosed.” Doctors suspect that tiny genetic variances in the DNA combined within her body have resulted in her unique health experience.
As she grew, we learned more about what Katelyn’s life would be like. Eventually we went home, but the list of things they said she can’t do grew. Katelyn won’t be able to see like we do; she won’t be able to walk, talk, or potty-train. She won’t be able to hold her head up or feed herself. And most children like her don’t live to see their second birthday.
Katelyn is 3 years old now, and we’ve learned a lot about what Katelyn can do. Katelyn has shown us, and our family, friends, and community, a perspective that her doctors didn’t see. We know now that while she does things differently, Katelyn Can. To celebrate her milestones and her unstoppable spirit, Katelyn will be running the Grand Forks Half Marathon, her way.
We ask that you please come out to support Katelyn and all the other runners! Cheer with friends, make some noise, bring signs, and play music! Even without running, spectators make a difference to the runners. Katelyn cannot see the way we do, but she can see solid colors. Bright pinks, red, and orange are easiest for her to see. We ask any spectators and runners to consider wearing one of Katelyn’s colors, to show love and support to all of those who were told they can’t, because we all can in our own way!
Thank you for reading about our daughter’s story. We believe in love, and that is the oath we have made as parents to embody and share with our children. Katelyn isn’t promised a long life, but she is going to have a life worth living. She may not be able to walk, but she will run this race her way. Whatever impossible feat you have before you, it only requires a change in perspective to overcome. Don’t give up. If Katelyn Can, you can too.
Anyone can come watch and cheer on the runners from 8-10am for the half marathon and 8am-1pm for the marathon runners on Saturday, September 24th. Please visit the Grand Forks marathon website for more information on the day’s events, and find out how you too can volunteer to support the runners and the event. Thank you!