I wrote a short novel below about my Poppy. I encourage you to read it to understand the heart behind my brand even more and because I blogged again (HOORAY!). However, the short version of my very long tale is this: I’m running the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston on April 1, 2017. I am personally donating $5 for every mile I run during training and on race day, and my biggest goal is to raise $1000 for Macula Vision Research Foundation. Keep reading below for the why behind this charity. xoxo
From the end of August through the beginning of September, I watched more of the U. S. Open than I had in years. Part of my reason for tuning in again is because I’ve played tennis since first grade. It’s the only sport that has followed me throughout much of my life, and it’s the only one where I am not afraid of being hit in the face with the ball…maybe because it happened. I cried, but I did live to tell the tale. : ) I also started watching again because tennis was always a love my Poppy and I shared together.
At the beginning of the week in late August, I had this feeling I needed to pause on everything related to work and spend the day with my mom and my Poppy. We ran my Poppy’s errands together. I learned he liked to “sample” chicken fingers and wings while he shopped, and I was able to see him greet each and every one of his grocery store friends. The three of us had dinner that night, and then we got caught up in Serena Williams’ tennis match. It was one of my favorite days I had ever spent with my Poppy. It was also the first and last of my mom and my Poppy’s famed Thursdays we would all spend together. There’s always a reason when you have one of those feelings that you need to be somewhere doing something outside of your everyday routine. I’m glad I listened.
Shortly after that Thursday, my Poppy was eating dinning at my house on a Sunday. My parents, Poppy, and I became engrossed in Stan Wawrinka’s match. He had Stan The Man boldly printed on all of his tennis gear, and the crowd was chanting Stan The Man, too. I turned to Poppy and said something like, “There’s ANOTHER Stan The Man!” I’ve never cheered so hard during a tennis match that I wasn’t even attending. Stan Wawrinka HAD. TO. WIN. Bless his heart of fury, he did. And my Poppy was feet away from me while we cheered. I wondered how many more U. S. Opens we would watch together, and as I hugged him goodbye that night I wondered, “How many more dinners?” Again, it was as though I knew.
I lost my Poppy – one of my heroes, and a very, very big influence on how I view the world, my life, and my brand – on September 30, 2016. I felt as though my glue was gone, the lights had dimmed, and magic walked away with him. Together with my Nana, that’s what they were – my grandparents were magic and love and everything wonderful. I will always hold them on the highest of pedestals. To know and love them was to know grace and joy. Always.
I have been at a loss of how to honor my Poppy other than treating others with joy and living life to the fullest. And then, I realized this year was the first year I could run the Copper River Bridge Run in Charleston. It’s a six mile race – the most I will ever run straight – held every year on the same weekend. I’ve never run it before because it’s always the weekend my family and I choose to celebrate my Poppy’s birthday. This year looks a little different, but every single mile will be for my Poppy. Literally.
Being the epic human that he was, my Poppy played tennis until he was in his mid-eighties. He loved every moment of it, and he missed it from the moment he decided to put away his racquet. Poppy bowled every week until my Nana became too sick with dementia when they were 89. He stopped to take care of her. After we lost my Nana, I would encourage and partially beg Poppy to never stop played bridge with his friends. He never stopped, and his social calendar went beyond rivaling mine; he flat out won he was always so busy.
Through tennis, bowling, cards, and everyday life, my Poppy was plagued by macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that robs you of your sight. He slowly lost his center of vision and relied on his peripheral vision. He often cocked his head or turned his body in order to see anything and everything. He would say, “I can see you, but I can’t see your face. I know you’re there.” In his center of vision, he saw a big black circle.
Photo via Macula Vision Research Foundation
He had a machine that looked like an overhead projector to allow him to read, he wore special magnifying glasses so he could watch TV, and he gave up on reading glasses years ago. “They’re no good” was a saying he used often about glasses, and my family and I were always desperate to find a pair that worked.
Poppy saw an amazing doctor who helped to manage his macular degeneration, but that meant he had to endure bright photo flashes and needles inserted into his eyes every few weeks to prevent his macular degeneration from worsening. None of us, including Poppy, were ever convinced it worked. But we (by “we” I mean my mom, my aunt, and I) feared the day he stopped because we were afraid his sight would be gone entirely. However, Poppy lived his life almost as though he was blind. But his joy was always there. His “selective sight” was there too – “You could’ve gone, love!” was something I heard often when I drove. But I thought you couldn’t see, Poppy?! : )
On April 1, 2017 and every training day leading up to it, I am running for my Poppy. For every mile I run during this time, I am personally donating $5 to Macula Vision Research Foundation. When researching to find a charity, my requirements were the following:
- 100% of donations funded research, not salaries (though I know paying those who work for the charity is important!)
- The charity only supports macular degeneration research (some are tied to more than one eye condition or cause entirely)
- I fully believe in the charity/foundation and their cause.
Macula meets all of my requirements, plus a few more I didn’t know I had. The foundation is based in West Conshohocken, PA (a nearby group!), and they specifically fund research for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is the exact form of macular degeneration Poppy had. When I revealed my chosen charity to my mom, she said, “I KNOW THEM!” I couldn’t have been more excited. Then, I spoke to Nikki from Macula, and she could not have been kinder.
I have a lofty goal I hope you will join me in reaching. Together, I want to raise $1,000 for Macula and AMD. Every single mile and every single dollar will be for my Poppy. I can’t imagine running a more meaningful race in Charleston than this one. When I cross the finish line, I hope Poppy is looking down and saying to my Nana, “She’s done it, Glady!”. He would be humbled to know I’m running for him, and he would be completely honored and floored that others would want to raise money for a disease that affected him for so many years.
My Poppy may have lost his sight, but I want other mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers to not only live life to the fullest but see it in full color, too. Please join me as I run for Poppy, an eventual cure, and a cause so close to my heart. #CarlyRunsForACause