This past Saturday put a lot of things in perspective for me. We all go through phases where we let the little stresses in life get us down and skew our view of what really matters. Saturday knocked some sense into me.
I started the day off emceeing the 2nd annual Charlottesville CureSearch Walk at "The Park" on grounds. CureSearch is a national non-profit organization that raises money for pediatric cancer research, namely critical clinical trials.
This is why we walk...
The Charlottesville CureSearch Walk was started last year by a woman who's now become my friend, Annie Gould, who tragically lost her young daughter to a rare form of cancer. Now, she's a woman on a mission; to get the Charlottesville community together to support life-saving research at the University of Virginia Children's Hospital, headed by Dr. Kimberly Dunsmore.
I was in awe at the support for this event. On a day filled with Foxfield Races and Dogwood Festival festivities, folks still came out to march and fund-raise. I was honored to introduce Annie, Dr. Dunsmore, and Congressman Robert Hurt to the crowd as they spoke about heartache, hope, and important legislation.
Introducing Rep. Hurt
The morning was full of tears, hugs, and hoorays as we released white balloons in memory of the children who lost their battle... and revealed that over $47,000 was raised for the cure. I watched as young cancer patients danced on stage care-free and happy despite the rough hand that had been delt to them.
Project Healing Waters
After the CureSearch walk, I was thrilled to be asked to emcee the Project Healing Waters fly fishing tournament kick-off dinner in Syria, Virginia. This is the second year in a row I've been asked to be a part of this amazing event and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Project Healing Waters is an incredible program that teaches wounded Veterans how to fly fish, taking them on outdoor adventures that bring smiles to their faces and their souls. It's a place where they can find peace in the water, and comfort being surrounded by other military Veterans who share their experiences.
For those of you who may not know, I come from a deep military background. My grandfather was in the Navy, my dad was in the Army, and I, the Air Force.
I was an Air Force ROTC cadet through college and was honorably discharged from the reserves in 2006; but I was never in any danger. The riskiest thing I did in the military was eat the food at boot camp (really, it wasn't all that bad though).
18 year old me as an AF cadet
My dad put himself in danger on a regular basis. He was an Army paratrooper and has served overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else it seemed. But we were lucky, he always came back safe.
Not everyone is as lucky as my family. My high school friend, David Ruhren was killed in Iraq just after his 20th birthday.
Article I of the military Code of Conduct states: "I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."
"I am prepared to give my life in their defense"
Many more come home with their lives permanently altered. To them and their families, we owe our ultimate gratitude. That's why the Project Healing Waters event is something I wouldn't miss for the world.
I had the pleasure of introducing Generals and a former Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Congressman Hurt, who attended as well (we coulda carpooled!). Despite frustrations about what's happening in Washington, and regardless of anyone's political affiliation, it means a lot to have a politician show up and care about such an important cause. Curtis Flemming, host of "Fly Rod Chronicles" was there to film a feature segment on Project Healing Waters too
The kickoff dinner was held at the stunning Rose River Farm in a huge tent right beside the river. As the rain started to fall, many of us stood together watching the fish jump out of the water. Congressmen and TV hosts next to double-amputees and men suffering from PTSD; all appreciating the river.
As I looked down the shores at the Veterans and their families and thought about all they had sacrificed for me and for our country, all of the little irritations in my world floated away and I was filled with nothing but gratitude. Gratitude for my life, my loved ones, and grateful for those who serve everywhere from battle grounds to hospitals and research labs; working their hardest to keep us safe.