May 15, 2024

There are nine charity bibs preparing to lace up their shoes and run at Vacation Races’ Bryce Canyon Ultras this weekend. We’re shining a light on two stories of athletes who are running and raising for our National Charity Partners Bigger Than the Trail and Challenged Athletes Foundation. These folks are running amazing distances AND using their run to do good for causes near and dear to them.

Meet Kaitlin Musser

Running For Challenged Athletes Foundation
Fundraiser: Donate Here

WHY CHALLENGED ATHLETES FOUNDATION

Sometimes, a short moment in time, can leave a lasting connection and impact. This was case for Kaitlin while learning how to ski with her kids. “On a ski lift a gentleman asked to get on with us; apologizing that it would mean slowing the lift as he got on and off. The reason being he was fitted out on a wheelchair ski set up. Curious but shy my kids being wonderful kids freely asked the man his story. He had been in a car accident. Never thought he would ski again when the words paralyzed entered his life. But then Challenged Athletes Foundation came and gave him this whole new world.  His equipment, like many other specialized gear, is ridiculously expensive, hard to manufacture and a steep learning curve. But CAF taught him, provided gear and really brought him a new sport to enjoy. “

MAKE THE WORLD A LITTLE BRIGHTER

We get asked a lot about how to start fundraising and when we chatted with Kaitlin, we asked her to share what she would tell others considering a charity bib or just starting to fundraise. “Just do it! The most incredible thing is that people truly do want to support and surround you. I know it is awkward and uncomfortable to put yourself out there but it is for something much greater than your self. Keep asking. Keep encouraging. Keep trucking along to make this world a little bit brighter.”

INSPIRATION TO KEEP GOING

Training for an ultra event AND fundraising for a charity is no small feat. But for Kaitlin, her whole world changed while preparing. Six months ago her husband had a tragic climbing accident and fell 30 feet. He shattered on vertebra and broke three other. He dislocated all the bones from his elbow and broke it. Broke five ribs and three breaks in his pelvis. He completely shattered his wrist. For three days he was unable to move for fear he would sever his spine and be completely paralyzed.

It could have been a moment to stop or to push pause on running but for Kaitlin it was important to keep going. “Training for this race suddenly felt more important yet a distraction. He wanted me to run. I needed to run. He could easily have been an athlete that CAF would support. No matter what life throws at you do the hard thing. Keep faith. Help others. Do the hard thing.”

Challenged Athletes Foundation is a charity organization that provides opportunities and support to people with physical challenges, so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletic events.

Meet Bill Hurston

Running For Bigger than the Trail
Fundraiser: Donate Here

Bill isn’t just a charity bib. He’s also a member of the Wander Project Ambassador Team and he’s running at Bryce Canyon Ultras with a goal beyond crushing some miles.

WHY BIGGER THAN THE TRAIL

“As far as the charity bib, well, there are two reasons for doing that: first, having a cause obligates me to show up and not quit. Second, as long as I am going to go through all of this, I might as well make it count for something positive! The idea of combining trail running and helping others who are dealing with a mental illness was a natural fit. In 2018, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can have devastating consequences for people and their families. I was blessed in that I was diagnosed relatively quickly but had immediate access to excellent medical care and therapy.

Not everyone is so fortunate. Many people struggling with any form of mental illness do not have access to resources – such as therapy – that can play a pivotal role in teaching them how to cope with their situation. The problem we have with mental illness in the US seems overwhelming, but, as Helen Keller said,

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

With organizations such as BTTT, every $5 makes a difference for someone!”

THE FUNDRAISING JOURNEY

We asked Bill to share what fundraising for a charity bib has been like and a common thread emerged. When we share our stories and our why, we find a whole community willing to show up and support us. Here’s what Bill had to say: “It was interesting. I am not good at asking for help. That’s just the way I was raised. Even though I believe deeply in the cause, it was, and still is, hard for me to ask for money when I know they are asked to contribute to many other worthy causes.

But, by sharing my story, I found that people also wanted to share theirs, which was both unexpected and amazing. I will be better prepared next time—and hopefully, there will be a next time—. I’ll set the bar much higher next time.”

WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

As Bill prepares for the Bryce Canyon Ultra, he extends an invitation to anyone, ” If you or someone you love has experienced a mental illness, I’d love to hear your story. If you need it, I have stories of hope and encouragement that might help you. It will be easy to find me. Just look for the big old guy finishing near the back of the pack of the 30K!”

Bigger than the Trail is a national organization that is using trail running as a platform to advocate for mental health.

To learn more about what running as a charity bib entails and how you can turn your next run into some good for your community check out the FAQ page or reach out to the team.

About the author 

Courtney Bierschbach

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