As I run around this week like a chicken with my head cut off … constantly thinking about the walk, but unable to find the time to write about it … a friend of mine had time to reflect on his experience at the walk. With his permission, I’ve posted his blog entry below. Hoping this will “tide you over” until I get the chance to post.
Today, I met Owen Bissing for the second time. Odd, considering Owen passed away on May 26th. But, so help me God, he appeared out of nowhere today, and there were plenty of witnesses that will tell you the same.
Here’s what happened.
My hero, Mel, and her amazing support group, decided to organize a team for Briggs & Al’s Run/Walk in order to raise money for Children’s Hospital. After all, when her 6-mo old triplet son, Owen, became unresponsive and was rushed to Children’s, those nurses and doctors did everything humanly possible to save her son.
As if Mel has nothing else to do, she has been actively recruiting team members for the past couple months. The team was named: Owenge Warrior Walkers (Owen and orange being mashed together, as that was his triplet “color” from day one). A normal team size for a walk/run like this is probably a dozen or so for non-corporate teams, and 30+ for most corporate teams. Well, I’m proud to say the Owenge team was 60 members strong, and raised $3,500+, which is an incredible effort by everyone. Tina and I raised a little over $300 between us, and we would both like to thank everyone that donated.
Anyone that has ever done one of these run/walks for charity is probably aware you usually receive a t-shirt with the event logo on the front, and a team logo of your choosing on the back. The shirts this year were white, and the logo on the back was the footprints of baby Owen, which I thought was perfect in every way. Team members (including my wife, but not me, since I was watching the girls instead) got together last weekend and tie-dyed the white shirts two different shades of orange, or Owenge, as it were. This proved to be a fantastic idea on 2 fronts – it was super easy to spot our team, and it was just awesomely original.
Our family went to the walk this morning, including myself, Tina, Violet, and Sam. Vi looked SO adorable with her tie-dyed orange shirt, braids, and an orange flower in her hair. Not to be outdone, Sam had pigtails and orange socks, meaning our two girls were arguably the cutest kids in the walk, though it’s entirely possibly parental bias is involved in this blog.
When we walked off the bus that took us to the start of the walk, it immediately became apparent to me we were in for something special. People looked at our tie-dyed orange shirts, walked over to us, and said, “You guys look awesome. What a great idea to color the shirts!” What normally is an annoying task of locating your team was laughably easy on this day…we just looked for orange, Owen’s color, and found our people in seconds.
Stories started to emerge from the gang. One person said a random stranger saw the orange, commented how cool it looked, and then took a moment to actually read the shirt. “Oh, you’re walking in memory of Owen Bissing? I simply MUST get a picture with you. We know his story!” Pictures were gladly taken upon request throughout the day.
The walk began, and the full effect of the color orange truly took hold. With inspirational music blaring from massive speakers, we proudly stepped with our left, then our right, and began our march in honor of Owen Bissing.
Do me a favor. Take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine 30,000 people, all wearing white shirts. Somewhere amidst that sea of 30,000, look for 60 people, walking a tight group, clad in orange. We stood out like a so thumb, and it was the best feeling in the world.
About 500 feet into the walk, we could hear enormous cheering. There were lots of cheerleaders from local high schools, and they were cheering on all the walkers. When they saw our orange shirts, and the massive banner being held by 2 of the Owenge team members, with Owen’s picture and dates of his too-short life on it, many of the cheerleaders began to cry. I glanced around, in disbelief at what was happening, but the tears spread outward. Quickly, Owen’s grandma and grandpa hugged each other tight and cried, as did my sister-in-law Sarah, my wife, and too many other people to name. I think at that moment it just hit home why we were all there – to honor a life cut far too short.
Another 500 feet and we heard cheering from high above. We looked up, and, to our amazement, saw someone leaning out a top story window, cheering us on and waving an orange pom-pom. We let out a thunderous roar of approval, and marched onward.
It was 500 feet later that I would meet Owen. We heard a band playing live music off to the side. Mid-song, the lead singer scanned the crowd, saw the orange, and said, “We got a big group of orange shirts here, looks like they’re walking for Owen Bissing. That’s what it’s all about, folks. Great job, guys!”
At that moment, seemingly out of nowhere, an orange monarch appeared and flew directly underneath the banner with Owen’s picture on it. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up, folks. Our jaws collectively dropped. My wife looked at me, tears in her eyes, and said, “Did you just see—“. She needn’t have finished, as I simply nodded my head yes. Audible gasps were heard amongst us orange walkers, as everyone started to observe the monarch.
There were no other monarchs around. None. The one butterfly that decided to join Al’s Run just happened to follow our group. Owen was there…I am convinced of it.
Later in the walk, our team moved off toward a big orange “Sunburst” structure for a big photo op. When we were all assembled, orange upon orange, smiles on our faces, we started to hear more applause, this time from fellow walkers. I looked out amongst the crowd and full teams were applauding us. I’m not sure if they knew Owen’s story, were impressed with the dedication of tie-dying shirts, or simply were applauding the fact that we had experienced a loss and were respecting his memory. The bottom line is they took the time to express their condolences and appreciation by way of applause, and it was just a really cool thing to experience.
This is the first day in my life where I was honored to wear a color. We were absolute celebrities walking a massive Owenge carpet, with groupies and paparazzi to boot! I can’t help but wonder where that butterfly is at this moment. My guess is it’s flying outside a window at Children’s Hospital, watching firsthand how the money 30,000 people raised is making a difference.
My hope is Mel continues this tradition annually. I believe she will, and I believe team Owenge will only get stronger in both member numbers and total donations.
Rumor has it the monarch is already signed up for 2012.