September 29, 2012

Operation Smile 5K & iPad Raffle

Dear Carter Jay,

Today was one of those really good days when I missed you so much that it hurt, but I knew that you were somehow right there with me.

Today was our third year participating in the Operation Smile 5K.  The very first year that we participated, you were right there with us in your stroller.  It was a blast, and we even took you out for lunch afterward.  I hadn't been back to that one and only restaurant you had been in until today. 

Last year, the race fell on the day before your birthday.  It was freezing, FREEZING, cold, but we still had an amazing turnout with about 40 people from Team Carter.  Here is something I wrote about it for Daddy's work newsletter.
As we took the 90-minute drive up to Timpanogos Park, I couldn’t help but remember that almost exactly one year earlier had been the happiest day of my entire life. Not too many people can pinpoint the exact day on which their life felt absolutely perfect, complete and fulfilled. But I sure can. One year ago we were driving to this same park with Carter bundled in his car seat. All of our children were with us. Our family was together. Our family was complete. Everything was absolutely perfect. It was Carter’s first and only birthday,and we had quite the celebration planned. It started with a walk/run event which benefited Operation Smile, an organization that funds cleft lip/palate surgeries in third world countries. It seemed right that we participate in this event since Carter was born with both a cleft lip and palate.
One year ago, Carter’s stroller was strapped full of his medical equipment. With the help of some of our railroad family, we navigated his stroller through the one mile path. We walked that mile proudly, but this year was different. I still walked that mile with pride, but it was a different kind. We were participating in this event as a memorial for Carter, not with him. Even though he wasn’t physically there, I was proud to think that our baby boy was indeed smiling down on us.
When we arrived at the park, it was cold. It was bitter cold. A storm had blown through early that morning, and buried the running trail with snow. I was amazed to see that despite the terrible weather, there were at least 200 people who had come to support this wonderful charity. More than 40 of those people were there to represent Team Carter. To say that the running path was treacherous was an understatement. There were parts that were a mix of sharp rocks, ice and snow. Before the race started, the director announced that the participants would have to walk in some areas. It reminded me of the beginning of Carter’s life when a doctor informed us of what our baby’s life would be like. It was also a treacherous path, so we walked through the tough parts. As the
runners lined up at the starting line, there were a lot of complaints about how cold it was and how terrible this run was going to be. Those were soon silenced with the thought that nothing had ever been easy in Carter’s life, so why should this be? The gun fired and the race was on. The journey to the finish line had begun, and what a hard journey it was. Many of the people found it difficult to breathe in the cold air, much like Carter struggled to breathe through his damaged airway.
There were several trips and falls, but each time the runners jumped back up and continued
on, just like Carter had continued to Keep On Keepin’ On. It seemed as though each runner who crossed the finish line had some sort of injury. Skinned knees and bruises were in abundance, but the
runners beamed with pride at what they had accomplished. I’d like to think that at the end of Carter’s race, he beamed with pride at everything that he had accomplished. I know that I did.

So, after the way the weather was last year, the race was moved to September which means that it's been a year and a half since we last did this race.  Since the Fall is such a busy time of year for most families, we didn't have quite as many people there this time which was completely OK with us because we knew that all of them were there with us in spirit. 

Your Daddy and I ran the 5K together this time, and while I know that I held him back, I'm so glad that we got to cross that finish line together.  After all, he is the only one who completely understands the emotions and thoughts that I have every single day when it comes to you. He is the only one who when we finish this race, will know how hard this journey really was. I love him so much.

Next, we got to draw the winner for the iPad 2.  We'd like to congratulate Jackie Heeter on winning, and also thank EVERYONE who purchased tickets.  Team Carter raised a HUGE $1708 to fund all of your trees in The Festival Of Trees this year.  We are absolutely FLOORED by everybody's generosity, and we hope that we make them and you proud.

After the race, we went back to that restaurant that we took you to 2.5 years ago.  It's the first time that we had been back, and while it was hard to walk through those doors without you, it felt good to just remember you.

I hope you know how much we love you and miss you, and also that we do all of this stuff because of you.  I wouldn't have EVER had my eyes opened to such a wonderful charity if it wasn't for you baby boy. Thank you so much for opening up that whole other world for me.  Thank you so much to all of Team Carter for continuing to work in Carter's memory.

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