Saturday, 7 October 2017

26 Miles, 26 dedications, The Chicago Edition

     Man talk about your crazy, busy, chaotic summer!  It seems like after the Pittsburgh Marathon, I never stopped running.  I mean, why would I?  There was much to do, and miles to run.  But, I'll save those stories for another day.

     It's funny.   When I look back trying to think about why I decided to run a marathon, I'm not really sure.  All of a sudden I've now run two.  But here I am, out of Pittsburgh in another great city and another favorite of mine about to attempt my third:  The Chicago Marathon.

     This year happens to be the 40th Anniversary of this fine race, and I get to be a part of it.  When that really sinks in, it hits me in the feels (not really a noun.)  Driving here to Frankie's kinda town, I had nothing but a cheek to cheek grin on my face.  My friend Kirsten and I pretty much jammed out to everything we could in the 7 hours and 20 minutes it took us to get here, and before we knew it, we were checked into our hotel.

     I don't want to talk too much about my training leading up to this point or even the weekend this far, but I did want to be sure to do what I've done twice now and dedicate all of my miles.  I feel that every step I take means something to me, but I also like it when each step means something to someone else.

     Since I'm in another city, I wanted to bring a part of home with me while running on Sunday.  Sure I have my Terrible Towel, but why wouldn't I?  (Most of us never travel without it.)  But, I needed some else, something more.   I wanted another way to bring Pittsburgh with me.  So, like I've done in the past I'd like to dedicate my miles so that they mean as much to someone else as much as they do me.  This also helps to make some of you a part of what I'm doing on October 8th, 2017.  I don't just run for me.  I run for you, and for those that can't.  We're in this together after all, and not just in Chicago, but in this life as well.

Mile 1 - Mrs. Donna Koffler, Lou Majetic, and Cy Clark.  You will always have my first mile.  Always.

Mile 2 - My cousin Bobby Hull and his family.  They lost their home in the Jacksonville Floods, and are doing OK and in very good spirits.  It will take time to recover, but he and his family are doing just fine.   He's a Hull, after all.  (I would have used a picture of you here Bobby, but your Facebook page has nothing but Pittsburgh sports Memes on it, and I can't find what I took over the summer.)

Tiffany Boehme
Mile 3 - Sari Oister, Tiffany Boehme, and Marissa Stout.  You were all with me in Pittsburgh this year.  Run with me in Chicago, too.  I know none of you need a reminder of what you are all going through, but just being able to see how strong you are is inspiration enough for all of us.

Sari Oister
Mile 4 - My run buddies:  Sara Majetic, Amy Egan, Stephanie Haas, and Dana Salada.  That care package was awesome.  I love running with you guys and wish you were here with me.  (Mostly just to hand me a beer before I cross the finish line.  j/k)

Mile 5 - Jimmy Spagnolo.   Jimmy, you may not be old enough to understand just how much you've touched the lives of me and my friends in such a short period of time.  You are one of a kind, and our hero.  Keep on rocking, and keep on dancing Jimmy.

     Most of my miles I wanted to dedicate to some who had left us whether it was this year or perhaps a little while ago.  They remain in the hearts of those that love them every day, and are thought about fondly and quite often.  May they all RIP in the heavens above.

Mile 6 - My old co-worker Virginia Petre's brother Jimmy.  RIP Jimmy

Mile 7- George Brinser.  George was the stepfather of a friend from high school, Dave Johnson.  RIP Mr. Brinser.  Dave and the rest of the family miss you a great deal, but know you are watching over them.

Mile 8 - Kevin Russell.  Kevin was the cousin of a former co-worker, Susan Douglas.   Another taken from this world too soon, may he also RIP.
Mary Yakima, RIP

Mile 9 - Tom Salada.  I never met Tom, but I'm good friends with his daughter Dana and niece Stephanie (two of my running buddies.)  Tom had passed a few years ago, but he is far from forgotten.  I enjoy running with your family Tom.  Want to run this one along side me, too?

Mile 10 - Mary Yakima.   My neighbor all the years I grew up.  One of the nicest and sweetest people one could ever wish to have.  RIP Mary.

Mile 11 - Jason Bufalini.  Jason's Cousin Cassandra works at the Hangar and she always takes good care of me and the boys in the band when we play.  Jason was her cousin, but more like a brother.  He is thought of fondly and he too is looking down upon her and the rest of his family.  RIP Jason.

Mile 12 - Tom Petty.  'nuff Said.

Mile 13 - Barbara Lantzy.   I didn't know Barbara personally, but graduated with her son Chris and daughter in law Barbie.  RIP. Mrs. Lantzy.

mile 14 - Stephen V. Brooks.  I've been friends with Danielle and Stephen a long time  Their father Stephen passed away earlier this year.  I was fortunate enough to meet him a few times.   RIP Mr. Brooks.

Leverette "Dade" Weir
Mile 15 - Leverette "Dade" Weir.   Dade was my friend Eric Hoye's step father.  Eric spoke very fondly of him, and I know he has been in Eric's and his family's thoughts everyday since he passed..  RIP Mr. Weir.

Mole 16 - Richie Recker.  Ray, I know I've never met your brother, and I know that you miss him a lot.  May he too, RIP.

Mile 17 - Joanne Karas.  I used to work with Joanne's son Jason when I DJed at the boardwalk.  I only met her once, and she was so awesome.  I talked to her for a good couple of hours.  We just talked and laughed.  She was awesome and a sweetheart.  RIP Joanne.  Watch over Jason and the rest of the boys in blue serving our great city.

Geri Jamison

Mile 18 - Geri Jamison.  Geri is the Grand Aunt of one of my closest friends, Bryan Benson.   I've met a lot of Bryan's family and I know I've probably met Aunt Geri as well.  RIP Geri.  You lived a long and wonderful life.

Mile 19 - Bill Wolfe Jr.  Bill was the cousin-in-law to one of my shipmates on The Abraham Lincoln, Sam Myers.  Bill was taken from his family far too soon, and one of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.  I know Sam knows this, but if you need any of us from V-3, don't hesitate to ask.  RIP Bill.

Mile 20 - Mary Peterson.   Mary was the mother of one of my shipmates, Maggie Arriola.  Maggie, who was like a big sister to so many of us while we served, lost her mother just a few weeks ago.  I never got to meet most of the families of those I served with, but in that short period of time, these people were my family (then, now, and forever.)   It's never easy when you lose a parent, but I hope that Maggie knows she and her mom will be in my thoughts while I run mile 20.

     This is the point of a race where I start to reach my breaking point.  I always am in need of some more inspiration to keep going, and more energy.  I know right where to get it, too.

Mile 21 - Trever and Anna Booher.  Thank you for having me be a part of your special day, and congratulations.  Wanna run this mile with me?  But we gotta do it in our underwear because that's normally the only time we run together.  #cupidundierun  Congratulations and many years of happiness to the both of you.

Mr. And Mrs. Booher
Mile 22 - Michael and Michelle Lewis.  "Who would have thought they'd see the day where Lewis was getting married" is not something I have ever thought.  I always knew it would happen.  They say good things come to those who wait, and Mike and Michelle were waiting for each other.  Then, they found each other.  I was more than happy to be a part of your day, too.  God bless you both and congratulations.

Mr. and Mrs. Lewis
Mile 23 - Julie Hunter.  My baby sister.  It's your birthday on the 8th, the same day I'm running this crazy thing!  You didn't think I'd forget you on your birthday, did you?  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

God we were so young.....
Mile 24 - Connor Schaefer.  You were not around yet when I ran Pittsburgh back in May, but you're here with us now.  Running won't be your thing, but hockey will.  Welcome to the world Connor.
Connor Gerard Schaefer, born August 26th, 2017

Bianca Sloan Hamstead, born
October 6th, 2017
Mile 25 - Bianca Sloan Hamstead.  I just KNEW you would join the world as soon as I left for Chicago, and you did!  You'll only be a day and a half old when I'm running, but you'll already be so much bigger!  Our little BeeBee and newest little one that I can teach how to toot properly.  It's what I do.  Ask your big sisters.  (I take full blame for their shenanigans.)  Welcome to the world Bianca.

Mile 26 - Kirsten Vietmeier.   We drove over 400 miles to run 26.2.  What the heck is wrong with us?  We came this far, so might as well finish this one together!  I know there is a lot going through your mind right now as I'm getting to pretty much witness this first hand.  Not only do we got this, but you damn sure have got this.  You are a hell of a strong runner, and I'll catch you at the finish line.

     Almost there.... only .2 to go, and of course I'll save that for the honorable mentions. It's no secret how much I love the show, The Goldbergs.  It reminds me so much of  growing up in the 80s and always hits you right in the heart at the end of every episode.  October 8th just also happens to be the birthday of the real life Beverly Goldberg, and October 10th for the woman that portrays her on TV, Wendi McLendon Covey (who deserves an Emmy.)  I know it's not a full mile, but I don't think they'd want to run a full mile anyway.  But, if you would actually do a mile, I'd hope it would be mile 23 with my sister and I.

     26.2 miles is a long way to go, especially when you're left with mostly nothing but your thoughts.  In my thoughts will be all of you.   Let's do this.


Chuck Hull,  The Running Jedi

#lovetherun #runningjedi #runchicago #chicagomarathon2017

PS:  I will be running for the Mario Lemieux foundation once more for the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2018.  I've got special plans for that, so stay tuned for the fun (it may involve a certain suit that is in my possession!)  (click the link below if you'd like to donate and/or bookmark to donate at a later time.)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

More Wheels, More Wings, and More Wishes

     The third annual "Wheels, Wings, and Wishes" event was held at The Hangar in Moon Township on July 30th of this summer.  The success of last year's event was such a blessing that the one thought on all of our minds was, "how do we top that?"  We were very pleased with how everything went and how much money we raised, but how in the world would we be able to do the same thing, if not better, the next time around?

     The one thing we knew we needed to do was work hard, if not harder.  We wanted to not only be bigger, but also better.   Again we asked ourselves, "how?"  The whole Wheels crew worked tirelessly for months on end to be sure everything went smoothly.  No matter how much everyone gave, it seemed like we still needed just a little bit more.  As luck would have it, magic happened.   Word spread around for our event, and people began to reach out to us asking how they could help.  It caught everyone by surprise, but it was a welcome one at that.  We needed all the help we could get.  From the caricaturist to the photographers and mobile escape room, this year's event was something that we'll never forget.  However, the vendors were not the only ones that made this year's event so memorable.  The Make A Wish kids and their families did enough of that on their own.

     Prior to the event, we were advised that we had 18 wish families RSVP to our event.  Our contact at the Make A Wish Foundation told us they had never really seen that type of response to attend an event that benefits these children.  We always felt we had created something special, but now we finally knew.  The first year we got to meet two families who became our friends, and last year we got to meet one.  But 18 families want to attend our event?  That was simply put, awesome!  Now it's not always guaranteed that all RSVPS will be able to attend, but on that day all 18 did.  In fact, more than 18 did.   We ended up hosting 20 families, which means we brought smiles to 20 awesome kids.

    One of the things that makes Wheels Wings and Wishes unique is not just the fact that kids get to come check out some classic cars and hot rods, but they also get to take rides in them.  We've all been to a car show or two.  There are well more than enough "please don't touch" signs everywhere, but at our event, there are also plenty of sign that read "kids ride for free."  A lot of the car owners jump at the chance to take the kids for a spin in their most prized possession.  (They even let me sit in the Lamborgini.  That will never happen again!)

      The rides were not the only thing that kept a smile on the faces of all the children.  Having a live band in the mix surely adds to the fun.  The band Tuned Up was more than happy to help entertain all in attendance for the second year in a row.  But, this time around they did it with a little bit of help.   Three of the wish kids in attendance love music and they love listening to live bands.  Little Jimmy walked by while the band played Van Halen's "Jump" and proclaimed "I know that song!"  Without hesitation, the band handed over the microphone to Jimmy who was more than happen to help out with the lyrics....

"Might as well Jump! Go ahead and Jump," you could hear him sing.  This kid was something else, and nothing short of a ball of energy, as well as a heck of a front man!

     Jimmy wasn't the only one that helped out.  Our new friends Marissa and Rebecca helped along with a little Bruno Mars, and Rebecca showed everyone how to fist pump to Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock!"  I'm almost not sure who had more fun, the band or the kids!  (I being the singer of the band can vouch for the validity of that statement.  I loved meeting these kids and had so much fun with them.)

     After all was said and done, the kids voted on their favorite cars.  The raffle prizes were given to their winners.  The day had finally ended.  But, the smiles didn't stop there.

     Bryan, one of the Wheels co-founders talked to the rest of the gang and mentioned how Jimmy had to leave for the day and really didn't get a chance to go for a ride in "Sylvia," Bryan's Corvette.  He made a promise to Jimmy that he would be sure to get him that ride.  When we found that out, the wheels started turning (pun completely intended.)  We thought it would be a great idea to surprise Jimmy at his house in order to fulfill that promise.  That wasn't the only surprised.   The band had so much fun having Jimmy around we wanted to make him an honorary band member and had a t-shirt made up to present to him.

     When the Wheels Wings and Wishes crew arrived at the Spagnolo home, Jimmy ran out the door yelling "I've been waiting for this all day!"  I can't even begin to describe the smile on his face, let alone ours.  After a few car rides and some shared cookies, it was time to head on home.  Jimmy told all of us that we made his day but honestly, he made ours.

     It didn't stop there, either.  Pittsburgh Native and New York Ranger's center man/winger J.T. Miller donated a signed jersey to be raffled off at the event.  The DeLouis family was in attendance and was one of our wish families.   They also happened to be the winners of his jersey!  Their son Marty was extremely excited!  When they shared their story of just how much, it got back to J.T.   The next thing we knew, they were invited by J.T to a private practice at the UPMC Mario Lemieux Ice Complex in Cranberry Township.  Marty was one of the happiest kids in Pittsburgh that day!

     Like stated previously we knew that we had to do better this year, and from what you've just read, it looks like we did.  We were able to raise over $13,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation, which also enabled us to grant three wishes!  All of the blood (not sure how valid that is,) sweat, and tears that went into the planning of the Third Annual Wheels, Wings, and Wishes event paid off in such a big way, but it's the heart that really made the difference.  Without the hearts of Sara Majetic, Dawn and Mike Hluben, Bryan Benson, Amy Egan, Mike Jackson, Bernie Augier and myself Wheels Wings and Wishes wouldn't be what it is.  However, it's the children that we get to meet and the ones that touch all of our hearts that make it the success that it is.  The same could be said for all of your hearts, too.

     It started on a wing argument.  It became so much more.


The Wheels Wings and Wishes Crew.


The majority of the photos in this post are courtesy of AJ's Photography and you can find those as well as additional photos here:
(Thank you again for volunteering your time and efforts for this event!)

Cool video of some of the car rides can be found here:

More of our friend Jimmy:

From left to right: Chuck Hull, Sara Majetic, Bernie Augier, Bryan Benson
Dawn Hluben (front), Mike Hluben (back), Amy Egan (in front of Mike H)
Mike Jackson
Dana Salada and Stephanie Haas volunteering
to help check in the Make A Wish Families