Just a few days before Thanksgiving 2013, I was driving my daughter home from school. It's a relatively short drive home, but I had asked her if she wanted to join me in some sort of "giving back" effort for the holidays. For the bulk of my adult life I have made it a point to do at least one kind thing during the Christmas season each year such as donating gifts, wrapping gifts, serving soup, etc. As I explained this to Gracie, the wheels in her little 5 year old head began to turn. Initially, her idea was more of a competition for presents for kids that needed them... think Wipe-Out or The Hunger Games, LOL ...of course, after a little explanation that kids who needed presents to begin with shouldn't be asked to compete for them, she concocted this idea of a pajama fun run for kids.
Now, as a parent I am fully aware that not all of our kids ideas are good and more often than not they aren't exactly attainable. How many of us have been asked for a pony, or better yet a unicorn? For some reason, I asked myself, why not? Sure, I haven't ran a bit more than I've had to since I got out of the military over a decade ago. Sure, I've never ever competed in any form of organized racing, running, or even walking. And sure, I had no idea where to even start. But the way her face lit up when she talked about this idea, well, I couldn't help but to at least try
We encountered quite a few road blocks initially. Who knew there was so much to putting one of these things together? Lucky for us, every time one door was closed another one opened and in some cases a whole wall would come down. In a matter of 2 weeks and 2 days we were able to make our daughters idea become reality.
On December 7, 2013 we held Gracie's 1st Annual Christmas PJ Fun Run in the freezing cold. Now, for those of you not familiar with Texas weather, 38 degrees might as well be subzero arctic temperatures. Our expectation was to have at least 20 kids show up and donate a gift. The way I saw it, I had about $250 of my own money invested in the event and that particular number of kids/gifts would make me feel like it was a success. We ended up with 59 kids (54 of which were old enough to participate in the run) and we collected just over 200 gifts. Amazing, right?
Well, the story gets better. You see, during the process of putting this event together we realized we needed to find somewhere to donate the gifts we intended on collecting at the fun run. To make an already lengthy story a bit shorter, let's just say we found a personal connection with an organization called St. PJ's Children's Home here in San Antonio, TX. To this day, I don't know if they initially had much faith in our plan, then again we weren't so sure ourselves. Nevertheless, the day we showed up with those gifts was surreal. As we walked in and began talking to the wonderful people that work there we learned that one of their biggest gift donors had backed out on them 2 days prior. So when they came outside and saw the mountain of gifts we came with, well, they were blown away.
We knew right away this was something we wanted to continue to do. It has become our goal to continue with this event on a yearly basis. We want to help our community in this seemingly small way to bless these kids in unfortunate situations with the spirit of Christmas. Of course, as a parent I do have somewhat of a secondary goal. My goal, is that as time goes by I want to hand the reigns over to my daughter, it was her idea after all. I want her to grow to understand the meaning of what giving is all about. I can only hope that parents and children who participate in the fun run share the same passion and gain the same understanding of what Christmas is all about as we have.
Help us help others,
Gracie is from San Antonio, TX and has a giving heart and an imagination like no other. She came up with the idea for this fun run when she was only 5 years old and we have been happy to help her turn it in to a reality. It is our hope that the fun run will not only bring joy to the children at St. PJ's, but that it will also serve as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.