Written by Becky Rubenow Howard, Mom to Erinn.
This year, over 60 parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, caregivers and angels boarded a trolley early Gala morning to participate in the Chicago Santa Hustle 5k alongside 8,000 other hustling Santas. While several of us had asked Paula Evans to provide snow for the hustle, she instead chose to bless us with a mild, sunny day – PERFECT weather for a 5k. While many parents opt to sleep in Saturday morning – what angel parent doesn’t crave sleep? – those of us who choose to wake early for the hustle are never disappointed. Every participant I talk to after the hustle is so glad they did. There is such a feeling of camaraderie and bonding that takes place that morning. As Judy Swanton explains, “I enjoyed every moment of the hustle – from the trolley ride over, the laughing, singing and photo opportunities during the walk, to crossing the finish line with Billy and Nicky.”
From the time we gather in the hotel lobby alongside the roosters, everyone has a smile on their face. Hugs and greetings are shared as everyone admires each other’s beards, bells, hats, tutus, antlers and angel wings. For the second year in a row, Chicago Trolley has provided transportation for us so we get to arrive to the hustle in style (thank you, Jason Bernstein of Angel Runners!). Once the hustle begins, the group splits up as the runners leave us in their dust, the joggers sprint ahead and those of us who don’t have a running bone in our body, simply chug-a-lug along at a snail’s pace.
No one can use the excuse, ‘oh, but I don’t run’ to not participate, as ANYONE can hustle!! As first timer, Tracy Carreola, states, “… not only did I get to participate in bringing some awareness and raise a little money to benefit FAST and Angelman Syndrome, but I got to spend some fun time with some of the most wonderful people.”
Each year, the group of FAST supporters who participate in the hustle grows, as does our enthusiasm and FUN! And each year, this group of parents raises THOUSANDS of dollars for FAST to use for research – YAY!! I can only hope that we continue to build on this and that more people join our hustle team next year.
Finally, this is what Brian Meek, cousin of Linda Yoakam aka Billy’s mom, had to say about his first dip into the Angelman community bright and early Saturday morning, “After the hustle and Gala, someone asked me how my weekend was. ‘Probably one of the most inspirational events in my life,’ is what I said. ‘I saw a group of parents and caregivers who – 24 hours of every day – give everything they’ve got. I saw those same people having a brief moment to connect, be goofy and just have some fun. I flew to Chicago thinking I was doing something for Linda and Billy. I flew back knowing I’d done it for me’. Of course, walking in a sea of Santas and following the legendary tutu was pretty cool, too.”
So there you have it, folks. I would like to encourage EVERYONE – whether you run marathons, are the occasional jogger or just consider walking to the mailbox exercise, to consider joining us on this fun adventure next year. I promise you, you will be glad you did. No athletic experience necessary, but a goofy outfit, coffee and the ability to have a great time are a must. What better way to spend a Saturday morning than with a bunch of your friends from this wonderful community we have all grown to love, supporting an organization we all believe in? See you next year!!