Thursday, June 27, 2013

Please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

Disclosure.  Absolutely none of this post is meant to brag.  Only to recognize the unbelievably kind and generous acts of others.  I hope it comes off the way that I intend.

First off, what you have to understand is that when I started 26 in 2013 for Sandy Hook, I honestly thought this would be the outcome:
  1. I would announce the project on facebook.
  2. A bunch of my friends would say, "WooHoo!  That's fantastic! Good for you!"
  3. A few close friends and family would donate.
  4. I would run a ton of races.
  5. I would finish running a ton of races.
  6. I would raise a few hundred dollars for the Sandy Hook Support Fund.
And that would be the end of it.  Of course, the primary goal of this project was always to show to the families that were affected on December 14th, in some tangible way, that people are out there fighting for their children and their memory.  So that the need for real change stays in the forefront of every one's mind.  But when I first launched this, I thought that family involvement and knowledge of my project was a long shot.  I thought, at the very least I will be doing something to help, rather than just being so sad about it every day.

But it's become something that I could never have dreamed. 

After my experience meeting some of the families, I really felt like this whole project had come full circle.  It solidified to me that I had achieved the loftiest hopes and dreams that I had for this project.  It felt so good.  I don't know how else to say it.

But something I never in a million year thought could happen would be people writing to me and calling me an inspiration.  It never crossed my mind that people could think that.  When my inspiration comes from the strength of the families that are doing so much in the wake of something so difficult to bear.  My efforts seem so small.  So it never ceases to surprise me when I get encouraging and loving emails from perfect strangers or new friends met along the way with messages of support and encouragement.

With that, I need to take a moment to recognize my friend Sally Leety.  She is a new friend that I made at my race for First Responders up in NH back in April.  Sally is a former resident of Newtown and has ties to our town to this day.  She is now a teacher up in NH and she did an amazing thing for me and for the memory of those that we lost and I feel compelled to share.  It's so reassuring to see the selflessness of others at times like this and Sally went above and beyond.  Allow me to share an excerpt from an email that she sent to her students and parents at the end of her school year:

"Back in April, I "introduced" Lindsay Knauf to my students as my new civic
hero.  Lindsay is a life-long resident of Newtown, CT, my hometown, and
still lives there today, raising her young family.  After the tragic events
of December 14th, she was looking for some way to help her beloved hometown.
Lindsay is a runner, so she has decided to run 26 races in 2013 (hence the
name), each race dedicated to one of the victims of 12/14.  I accidentally
met Lindsay at a road race in Greenland, NH, the Chief Maloney Unity Run &
Walk, where she was running in her "27th" race, in honor of Newtown's first
responders.  When I heard her name and where she was from announced at the
finish line, I track her down and introduced myself.  She is truly a
remarkable young woman!

If you would like to "meet" Lindsay, Channel 8 in CT did a piece on her a
couple of weeks ago, and you can watch it at

If you would like to read Lindsay's blog, where she reflects on each race
and those she is honoring, visit

And finally, if you would like to help Lindsay get closer to her goal of
raising $26,000 in 2013, you may donate by visiting

Thank you all for a wonderful year.  I hope you are all able to enjoy each
and every day of your summer!

Best regards,

~Ms. Leety"

Due to her note and the tremendous respect her students have for her as a teacher, Sally's students have responded and donated to my cause.  To see these kids take time out and do something like this, warms my heart.  They could have read Sally's note, said, "Aww, isn't that nice."  And left it at that.  But because they love their teacher so much and because Sally took the time to spread the word, more people know about what happened that day and how hard our community was impacted.

Also, never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that someone would call me a "Civic Hero".  I feel unworthy of such a title.  But I am beyond honored that Sally would think so.

Thank you so much Sally.  You have given me so much more than just a few more dollars towards my goal.  You gave me a title I never even dared to dream I would hold.  And the knowledge that people will always care about what happened in our beautiful town.

Basically, what I want to say to anyone out there reading this is that I am so incredibly proud and thrilled if this project is helping you in some small way to heal.  I never imagined it would go that far.  And it will be one of my most proudest achievements for the rest of my life.  You are all helping me in untold ways.  I thank you all for that.

I said it to my friend Linda the other day, and I'll repeat it to you all now.  I hope I never falter, I hope I never let you down.  This is too important to me.

And with that, I will close out. 

Good Night Neverland!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Race Reflection: Avielle Richman

I have a process.  I have a routine with all my races for this project.  I have a very professional spreadsheet where all 26 loved ones are listed with columns along the side listing the race that I want to run for that particular person. Notes on who I need to contact when I schedule that particular race.  Details of the race day that I need to know.  And about a week out from each race, I try to announce the race that I am running and who I will be running it for on my blog and facebook page so that the people that like to meet me at my races know where I'll be. 

It's all very organized and very unlike me typically.

This past weekend, was my race in Fairfield and I have known about that particular race for a few months now.  I had a person picked out to run that race for.  I had it all marked down on my spread sheet.  But I never announced the race or the person that I was going to run for that day.  I have no idea why I skipped that part of my process.  I just did. 

The night before my race, I was in my bedroom putting all my gear together for the next morning.  I pulled out the shirt that I was planning to wear the next day and for no reason in particular I sat there and thought, "I need to save this one for another day.  This isn't the person that I need to run for tomorrow.  I'm going to run for Avielle tomorrow."  Honestly.  I swear it was as simple as that. 

When I arrived at the race on Saturday, my friend Beth asked me why I had chosen Avielle for that day.  I remember feeling guilty when I told her, "I honestly didn't have a reason this time.  I just did."  Beth knows that I try very hard to match up the people that I run for to a certain race if I can.  (For example, I ran the Sham Rock and Roll for Ana because of her families love and involvement in music.)  I felt bad that I didn't have a reason.  It was such a last minute change and it almost felt like a disservice to Avielle. 

Little did I know.

So, the race was over and I was cranky because the water table was farther away from the finish line than I would have liked it to be.  (I can be a big baby sometimes)  I found my water and I was cooling down a good distance away from the race crowd.  I looked to my left and I saw a few people taking photo's near by me.  I recognized them immediately.  It was the Wheeler family who had lost Benjamin on December 14th.  I hold a very deep respect for the Wheelers because of everything that they have done in the wake of December 14th.  They are incredibly well spoken and brilliant advocates for change and we are lucky to have them as a mouth piece for our town.  At first, I hesitated.  I didn't want to bother them during their family time or in that moment, but I felt compelled to approach them.  They were amazingly sweet and kind to me as we chatted and I was so happy that I was able to meet them and tell them in person how extraordinary I think they are.  I told them briefly about my project and that I would love to be in contact with them if they had another race that they were planning on running so that I could run for their Ben on that day.  It was at that moment that Mrs. Wheeler looked down at my shirt and saw that I was running for Avielle.  "Oh!"  She said.  "You're running for Avi!  Look!"  And she turned around to show me that she had a picture of Ben and Avielle on the back of her shirt.  It was then that Mr. Wheeler turned back to me and said, "Avielle's parents are here today.  Would you like to meet them?" 

I was in shock.  Here is the reason I made the last minute change without knowing why.  Avielle was pulling some strings that day.

Mr. Wheeler got in touch with the Richman's and before I knew it, I was face to face with the family that I was trying to honor that day.  I can't explain this feeling well enough.  All I have ever wanted from this project was to show the families that we will never forget their children.  That people are always thinking of them.  That we will do everything we can to help and to make this world a more caring place.  Being in that moment with these amazing people is something that I will never forget.

The very first thing Mrs. Richman said to me was, "Can I please give you a hug?"  And all I could say back was, "Are you kidding?  Can I please hug you???"  This is sort of a dream come true for me.  One of the reasons that I started this project was because I felt so helpless.  I often said that I wish I could just hug these people.  Be there for them in some way.  And here I am, hugging a mother that was forced to say goodbye too soon.  I wish I could have hugged her forever without being a complete creeper. 

I quickly told the Richman's about how I was supposed to run for someone else that day and my abrupt change of plans that I didn't quite understand.  "Avielle was helping us out today I think," Mrs. Richman said with a smile. 

Mr.  Richman pulled a pin off his shirt and put it in my hand.  It was a pin for the foundation that he and Mrs. Richman have constructed in Avielle's honor.  Mr. and Mrs. Richman are both scientists and they are now devoting their time to preventing violence by studying brain health and expanding education on mental illness.  And you'd be hard pressed to find two more sweet and amazing people in this world.  Please take a moment to visit their website to learn more about the incredible work that they are doing:

Dear Avielle, thank you for connecting me with your amazing parents.  It was an experience I will never forget and I hope that I helped a small corner of the heart find its way to healing by running in your honor.  We all miss you every day.  We will all carry you with us for the rest of our lives. 


Here is the string puller herself, the gorgeous Avielle Richman with a smile that goes on for days.  The 15th angel I have now run for.

Full race album available at the facebook page 26 in 2013 for Sandy Hook:

An experience I will never forget.  Me and the Richman's on race day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Let me tell you about where I am from.

Lately, I've seen a lot of commentary about how people from Newtown dread getting the question, "where are you from?" when they are out and about.  They don't want to see the sorrow in that person's eyes when they hear the answer.  They don't want to see the pity.

Go ahead and ask me where I am from.  I am more than happy to tell you.  Allow me a few minutes of your time to bend your ear about what it means to be from Newtown.  How proud I am to be a lifelong member of a community that banded together under the worst possible circumstances to take care of their own.  That have worked tirelessly to ensure that the people we loved most are never forgotten.  Give me ten minutes of your time to explain how special this community is.  How we are going to be the driving force behind nationwide change.  Because this community has too much spirit to ever give up a fight that will ensure that a tragedy like this will never be again repeated.  Not on our watch.  Not if we have anything to say about it.

Six months have gone by.  Do you think there is one person in this town that doesn't stop what they are doing for a few minutes each day to remember?  We remember.  Every day.  And remembering makes us strong.  Remembering says to the world that we are better than the atrocious acts of one coward.  That one coward will never define us.  We will be defined by our actions after the unthinkable.  By our ability to push through the darkness and find the light again. 

With that said, allow me a moment to show you where I am from.  Let me show you what you are missing out on by not being a part of our community.  Don't pity us, believe in us.  Every one should be as fortunate as we are.  To live side by side the people of this amazing community is a privilege.  It is an absolute honor. 

We Are Newtown.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Race Reflections: Allison Wyatt

On June 2nd, I took to the streets of Monroe, CT to run for miss Allison Wyatt.

I read something the other day that both broke my heart and lifted my spirits.  I read that during the services honoring Allison's life, Rev. Walter L Pittman said to a crowd desperate for solace that, "You are a fortunate group.  At some point over the past six years, Allie Wyatt got in your way and you are better for it."

Truer words have never been spoken. 

Whether we knew you or not, Allie, we are better for having you in our world.  And on the eve of the six month anniversary since you've been gone, you have left behind a town left that will fight every day for the rest of their lives to make sure that we make this world a better place in your honor.  You made us better.  Let us return that favor and make those around us better by our presence in this world.  We owe you that.  If this disaster fixes nothing, we have failed you.  We will have failed all of you.

I see you every day, Allie.  I have a little girl in my life that looks just like you.  Every time I see her, I think of you.  And every time that I think of you, I say a brief hello to you in my mind and hope and pray that you can hear me.  You will never be forgotten.  Your impact in this world will forever be sustained. 

My son loves to draw and paint, just like you.  We have his artworks strung up all over our home.  When I walk into a room and see it up there on the wall, I smile.  I'm not sure how your parents feel about looking through your artwork these days, but I'm certain that it brings on a flood of emotion.  I hope that one day it will bring joy, and only joy, to them once again.  As you intended it.  Because it is a piece of you left behind for all eternity. Something to be treasured.  Something tangible of you and they will need that as they heal. 

Goodness.  This is a hard week.  We could sure use some of that famous Allie humor to get us through.


Here is miss Allison Wyatt, the 14th angel I have now run for:

Full race album available one the facebook page 26 in 2013 for Sandy Hook

Monday, June 10, 2013

26 in 2013 for Sandy Hook on the Local News

Click the link to view the video:
Newtown Woman Running 26 Races for 26 Victims

How to Donate

I've been told that people are finding it hard to locate the website where donations can be made to the United Way Sandy Hook Support Fund through 26 in 2013 for Sandy Hook.  Here is the direct link to my fundraising page:

Thank you all very much for your support!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Race Reflections: Jesse Lewis

On May 19th, I ran the O'Neil's 5k to Benefit the Jesse Lewis Foundation in Norwalk, CT for the amazingly brave Jesse Lewis. 

Jesse was six years old when he died at Sandy Hook.  Six years old.  Want to know what his final act on this planet was?  He was trying to lead other children to safety.  What six year old does that?  When shots rang out, he ran to the hallway to see what he could do to help.  He was six.  I can't get that through my mind.  Adults are one thing.  We are programmed to protect children.  But to have a child act on that instinct is something incredible.  What a strong young man.

The race day for Jesse was a cold and wet one for mid-May.  But heck if you would have known it.  People were out in droves to show their support for the Jesse's family.  Such a beautiful thing to see.  On a day where staying in bed curled up under the blankets watching movies would have been a far superior option, people ventured out to make sure that the Lewis family knew that we would forever stand beside them.  Regardless of the weather.

As I was walking towards O'Neils that morning on my way to sign in, a man at a local bakery popped his head out and asked me where everyone was headed to.  Apparently he noticed all the people out and about that wet morning and realized it was odd.  I told him that O'Neil's was putting on a race that benefited the Jesse Lewis foundation and that Jesse was one of the little boys that passed away on December 14th.  "God bless them."  He had said to me. And followed it up by saying, "What a strong community Newtown is.  We could all learn a thing or two from them about how to treat one another."  I couldn't have said it better myself.

The stories, like Jesse's, of heroism are endless.  The acts of kindness that followed in the wake of this tragedy, are too many to count.  The number of people looking to ensure those lost are never forgotten, are vast.   And I personally have turned a very significant corner.  In the wake of December 14th, if someone asked where I was from, I would hesitate.  I didn't want to see the look in their eyes when I told them that I was from Newtown.  I didn't want to see the pity.  Now?  I jump at the chance to tell you where I am from.  Because I'm working past the grief.  I'm seeing the good instead of the bad.  I am so beyond proud to be able to tell you that I am born and raised in Newtown because we have done everything right from the moment that horrible creature entered one of our beloved schools.  We have so much to be thankful for and our community will forever be impacted in the most positive way because of how we learned to come together and be there for each other through the worst possible scenario.  We are Newtown and we choose love every single day.


Here is the handsome Jesse Lewis.  The 13th angel that I have now run for.

Full race album available on the facebook page 26 in 2013 for Sandy Hook:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Race Reflections: Lauren Rousseau

Back on May 18th, I ran in Danbury at their "Spring Forward for Sandy Hook" event.  I ran this race for Lauren because the school that was hosting the event was where Lauren had been a regular substitute teacher and her presence was still strong in their walls.  Her loss, a heavy weight on all of their shoulders.  Two things struck me particularly hard that day.  One.  People that work towards good will always out number those that strive to do harm.  Two.  Meeting family members of those that we lost on December 14th is sort of like meeting a celebrity.  Allow me to elaborate on both those points...

Firstly, the overwhelming love and support that radiated through the crowd at this race was beyond moving.  Each of the elementary schools, as well as different organizations through out Danbury, sat stationed, poised and ready at various check points throughout the race.  They were armed with massive signs that preached love, community and above all, unity.  As you ran, you were enveloped in their shouts of love and support.  Children ran out into the road to race a few steps along your side and reach for your hand, even though they you were a total stranger to them.  They passed out water.  They cheered us on.  It was a beautiful reminder that there is so much more good in this world than bad.  And that children are our greatest assets in finding the good in anything.

Secondly, I need to touch upon what it's like to meet family members of those lost.  I met with Lauren's aunt at this race.  The night before the race, my friend Beth had reached out to me to ask if I would like to meet her because she had a mutual connection.  I, of course, said that I would be honored, and ran through some ideas of things that I would like to say to her so that I would be prepared.  I went into race day confident of what I would say when we came face to face.  But as we approached her that afternoon, my mind went blank.  Nothing that I had planned to say felt good enough.  It felt too superficial.  It wasn't enough.  What on Earth do you say to someone that lost so much in the blink of an eye?  I just wanted to hug her and not say anything.  I wanted to cry on her shoulder suddenly.  Grieve along her side.  Lauren isn't mine to mourn.  But I will mourn for her every day.  And saying something like, "I'm so sorry for your loss", just isn't enough anymore.  It's just not enough to be sorry anymore.  This can never happen again.  The only way to find some solace in this terrible thing is to make sure that people take what has happened here in Newtown, and use it to ensure that this never. happens. again.  EVER. 

It is the only way to properly honor those beautiful souls.


Here is the lovely miss Lauren Rousseau.  The 12th angel I have now run for:

Lauren's very brave and sweet aunt.