Let me introduce the fabulous Jake Appleton from Appleton, WI again! Below are his reflections from the Briggs and All Run/Walk which benefiting Childrens Hospital of Wi … Where Owen was treated after being found not breathing.
Saturday, September 15th was the 35th annual Briggs and Al’s Run/Walk in downtown Milwaukee. The goal of the event was to raise money for Children’s Hospital, and I’m pleased to report that 13,000 people showed up for the event, and over $13 million was raised. Interestingly, Mel Bissing wasn’t one of the 13,000 in attendance. Nor was her sister, Rachael. Or best friends, Sarah Meyer and Abby Snopek. So, what in the world happened? A sequel to “Home Alone”? Maybe someone unplugged their alarm clock and it was flashing 12:00 when in reality they had overslept and missed the race? And now Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are sneaking around, ready to break into their houses?
No, nothing that interesting. A close friend of theirs got married on 9/15 and each of them made the tough decision to attend the wedding instead of walking for Owen’s Little Warriors. Let’s just say that marriage BETTER NOT end in divorce!! (totally kidding) So, going in, we knew Mel and some of her usual entourage would not be in attendance. But did that dampen the spirit? Not even a tiny bit. Here’s what happened.
I woke up at 5:40 AM…seriously, Owen, I hope you’re looking down and smiling, cuz that’s dedication. I started getting the girls ready, and woke Tina shortly after. My daughters were really excited for the walk, particularly Violet, who is borderline in love with Mel’s son, Jaden. Tina had the girls so cute in all their orange stuff, and before we knew it, the time had come to leave. We managed to score free parking, which was a plus, and then it was time to board the school bus. You might recall the year prior where we were celebrities, of sorts, due to our dyed orange shirts. People were coming up to us saying, “That is SUCH a good idea! Oooohhh, are you on Owen’s Little Warriors team? I LOVE Mel’s blog!!” This year was different, mostly because we weren’t the trendsetters anymore. The trend had been set, and others followed suit. We saw yellow shirts, blue shirts, pink shirts…you name it. They all have Mel to thank, but who’s counting?
all the “bling” Mandy (the team captain and dear friend of Mel) made
Weston & Logan on the bus ride down to the start line
Doug and the Boys
Speaking of colors, my leg quickly turned red, as I somehow cut myself getting on the bus after trying to maneuver two strollers into the seat next to me. I glanced down and saw a red trickle, beginning at my knee, and ending at my calf. Great start, Jake. Tina saved the day with a Kleenex, which I fashioned into a tourniquet. Problem…solved.
We were fairly early, so we walked to the starting line and looked around for other orange shirts. We found only 3 – a nice couple and their son. After chatting with them for a few moments, others started to arrive, including Mel’s husband, Doug, and the boys! As we looked around, we found a very odd celebrity mix: the Brewers Racing Sausages, Bango the Buck, the Admirals’ Mascot, a lady on stilts, Chewbacca and some Storm Troopers. Wait a tic…did you just say Chewbacca and some Storm Troopers?! What were they doing at an event for Children’s Hospital? Don’t know, but Doug sure was excited about it. He was like, “OH MY GOD!!! CHEWWWWIIIIEEEE!!!” Jaden rolled his eyes and tried to keep up as Doug sprinted away.
My favorite pre-race moment was definitely Mel’s brother, Jake. He came dressed head to toe in an orange suit. Picture those “Blue Man Group” dudes…only orange. I can’t describe how awesome that was. There’s spirit…and then there’s what Jake did for Owen. He became an INSTANT celebrity once the mask was zipped over his face. Little kids started walking up and giving him hugs, parents wanted to take pictures with him, hot girls wanted him to autograph their cleavage (ok, I added that last part).
Another thing that really stood out was the green shirts all around us. The green shirts were special because they were given to Child Champions, who were defined as someone who was once a patient at Children’s Hospital. It really hit home for me when I saw the sheer number of green shirts. Whether you have been blessed with healthy children, like us, or if you have needed the services of Children’s Hospital, this thing is bigger than all of us. And I GUARANTEE everyone reading this knows someone that has been helped by these fine doctors and nurses. There is no better cause than helping children.
Owen was in the forefront of our minds as the walk began. The throng of 13,000 strong started marching onward as the inspirational music blared over the loudspeakers. “Brighter Than the Sun” was an appropriate first song, and the Marquette cheerleaders were once again brought to tears when they saw Mandy and Jessie Buschke walk past, holding the banner with Owen’s photo and lifespan in full view. Not the first time the power of Owenge moved someone to tears, and it won’t be the last… My wife noticed a monarch butterfly again stick with our group, but this time only for about a minute. Still, just knowing that Owen acknowledged and thanked us for marching in his memory for a second straight year was pretty awesome.
As we passed a half mile, I decided to look up at the building where last year, someone high up in a skyscraper was waving an orange pom-pon. He wouldn’t be back again this year, would he? My eyes glanced up, and landed on something bright orange. Same guy, this time with a bright orange shirt. He waved his arms wildly at us when he saw our group. To this day, we have no knowledge who this man is, but we do know this…Owen touched his life, some way, somehow. Just as he has to all of ours.
See him on the left hand side of the building 8 windows up on the balcony?
The rest of the walk was rather uneventful. Poor Jake in the head-to-toe orange outfit had to relent and take the mask off after awhile because it got to be pretty hot in the sun. We didn’t want him to change his orange shirt to green after a hospital stay, so his decision to cool off was the right one. Mostly, the day was one of reflection. Owen’s Little Warriors consists of people from all walks of life. We may not all be close friends outside the walk environment, but at least for a few hours, every year, we’re family. Owen’s family. I know Mel couldn’t be there on Saturday, but we all know she appreciated the support everyone gave to her team. Some of us knew Owen his whole life, others never had the chance to meet him until it was too late, but for me, I gained a valuable lesson that I will never forget: Live in the 2%. Keep your faith strong. Believe.
Where did Jake go?
Logan and Mandy having a “moment”
There are no words to express how sad I was that I couldn’t be there at the walk … but after getting pictures send to me during the day via text and email, I felt like I was walking right there with everyone. I know that Owen was proud of everyone that walked – we raised a bunch of money for Children’s Hospital. I think just about everyone knows someone who has been treated by the wonderful nurses and doctors there. They make dreams come true, they heal the sick and they make the worst life nightmare seem almost bearable. The staff at Childrens do a lot more than just care for sick children – they also care for the families of the sick kids by offering training and education and sometimes just being an ear that will listen in the middle of the night when you just can’t sleep because you are so worried for your little baby.
Thank you to the 13,000 people who walked! Thank you to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for all that you do!