Atlanta, GA 6th Annual IOCC Run/Walk
Saturday, May 6th, 2006.
5K (3.2 Miles) Run / Walk
Click here to view photos from the event.
Megan Brightwell, MA LAPC
St. Mary of Egypt OCA
The last time I participated in a fundraising athletic event was the jog-a-thon in 5th grade. I am neither a morning person nor has the term athlete ever been part of my self-image. So when my friends decided we should all do the run walk together, I agreed half-heartedly. By the time those same friends all discovered they had to take final exams, work or go to weddings, I was stuck. I had already committed to help the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) Atlanta Metropolitan Committee.
I had my task, find out what motivated people to participate in the IOCC run walk. I knew why I got involved peer pressure, but why would 250 people choose to get up early on a Saturday morning to walk or even run five kilometers (3.1 miles)? I was curious.
Saturday dawned crisp and lovely, definitely a morning worth getting up to see. The Century Center parking lot was slowly filling up. Amidst the growing crowd, I saw Sarah Grivas eating a complimentary bagel and chatting with friends. Sarah is training to run a relay race in Colorado this summer, so I assumed I knew why she had come. Surely she must be one of those mythical “runners” who run because they can. But, it was harder than that. The track team she coaches was competing in Augusta, GA the same day. In order to run, she had driven two and a half hours into town and would then drive back after the race. When she won best time in her category, she did not stay to get her award.
Many people came an extra mile to attend today. At least two families came in from St Philothea Greek Orthodox Church in Athens, Georgia about 1.5 hours away. Parents and grand parents toted children in strollers, and one mom passed me pulling her two kids in a red wagon. This wasn’t simply peer pressure and it wasn’t just easy. Why did they come?
“I came to support IOCC.” Many people said the same thing: 72 year old George Mamary from St Elias, Brew and Thea Wallace newlyweds from St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church, and from the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Maria Ganim a young mother with a stroller and three kids under six in tow. They came because as members of the Orthodox Church they value IOCC’s ministry around the world. They came to support this charity and to involve their youth in the ministry of the Church.
Charlie and Barbara Brown from St Elizabeth Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church started supporting IOCC after they hosted an exchange student from the country of Georgia and learned who it is that IOCC reaches out to help. Visiting the countries of Georgia and the Balkans where IOCC has operated, they were further inspired to give. “They don’t have anything. What we take for granted here in America, they don’t have… They don’t even have electricity.” “And yet, they love their country; they love where they are,” just as we do. I gazed past Barbara and out over the crowd gathered in the glorious morning light, dressed in stylish “active wear” intermingling around the freshly washed cars, drinking complimentary bottles of water, and sporting brand new IOCC T-shirts. I am thankful that God brought me here. We are blessed. We have so much to give.
“What is a $100 to us? We can blow that much in a weekend, just to have a good time.” Charlie and his wife obviously share their desire to give. Having seen the needs of these countries, he believes that everyone would choose to give if they understood how much the work of IOCC was needed and how little it takes from us. The hot lunch program in Lebanon makes it possible to provide lunch for a child for a whole year for just one hundred dollars. Charlie believes that what he gives “does more for me than it does for them.” Their generosity obviously gives him and his wife great joy and “it brings me back down to earth, that we’ve got a little bit too much.”
The race started and I forgot about my job. I simply enjoyed the beautiful weather, the chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. We wandered all over the Century Center Office Park. Halfway through, the serious competitors started to come back by us on their way out of the course. We cheered and sometimes teased as the runners sped past us. Unnoticed by the officials, serious competition arose in the unofficial stroller division as husband and wife vied to make it to the top of the hill first.
We had many champions at the race. Sixty four year old, Yevette Kisil had won in her age group the first 5 years, but today walked for the reward of seeing other people giving back. The Zakas family had two champions: their daughter Chelsea and son Peter both placed first in their respective age groups. Most wonderful to watch was the pride both siblings took in one another’s accomplishments. Perhaps the proudest person on the field was the mom who bragged happily that her 4 year old son had run (almost) the entire first mile.
We have a lot to be proud of today. Completely biased as a woman, I wanted to talk to the overall female winner, Rebecca Showalter, age 14, from St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church. I found her after the awards ceremony, still energized from her run. Asked why she came, she replied with the enthusiasm of youth, “I came to win!”
Well, Rebecca, you won. We all won. Together, we raised over $30,000 that IOCC will use to support God’s people all over the world. Together, we walked and a few brave souls ran, five kilometers. And we came together, as Orthodox Christians from 12 different Orthodox parishes and five different jurisdictions to play together, pray together and to walk, in unity of the Spirit, a walk worthy of the calling to which we were called.
Click here to view photos from the event.