WINGS OF FREEDOM by Meredith Stoll, Annie’s Locker Board Member
There is really nothing like ringing a cowbell, cheering like crazy and having someone threaten to get sick on your shirt to make you understand the heart of a mission.
One hot Saturday in June, I volunteered for my first run as an angel in support of Annie’s Locker. Three residents at the Rockford Rescue Mission were running their first 5K after having worked with Annie’s Locker to prepare. The ladies were excited and nervous. Before the race start I was able to talk with them and learned a little about them, mostly about their struggles with training and getting into a routine. They had so many struggles in daily life, but prioritized change for the better and healthy choices. I was so excited for them to begin the race.
We set up signs so that everyone would know that on the last turn nobody was running it alone. As the RRM ladies came into sight, Annie’s Locker volunteers erupted into cheers, screams, whistles and slapping. As it was my first go ’round‘, I was a little unsure of what to do, but I was all too happy to join in. When asked to help run them across the finish line, I was thrilled to do that as well. I took my cowbell and screamed “You’ve GOT THIS!” as I slogged out the last leg with our ladies, who were clearly giving it their all on a morning that was already 90 degrees. One of the ladies thought she would be sick, but she gutted it out and ran faster over the line. They were exhausted, they were drenched, and beaming with pride.
In the moments after their finish, each woman smiled. I could see the magnitude of this accomplishment on each of their faces. They had taken on a challenge and saw it through to an accomplishment. It was incredible to see confidence grow right in front of me. I am so lucky that I got to see the “inspire” portion of the mission of Annie’s Locker firsthand, as their support from Annie’s Locker was a big part of their journey. For these ladies, that finish line was just the first of many – and they will cross them all.
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