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Finding Strength and Community with the Starting Line Scholarship

There is a natural confidence to the way Shannon speaks, she’s comfortable and measured. She’s the mother of 4 children ranging from ages 28 to 18, and this year she and her husband will be empty-nesters.

“Several months ago, I got to a point where I knew I needed help,” Shannon said. “I just knew I needed to have somebody that was midlife, that might be empty-nester and help me get through my daughter leaving for college this fall.”

Her youngest and only daughter is preparing to leave for school. For the first time in 28 years, she will not have the responsibility, and the pleasure, of caring for her children on a daily basis. “I got to a point where I was crying all the time, going into the shower and crying, going into my closet and crying, going to work and crying.” She continues, “I was just afraid when fall hit, I would be extremely lonely.”

Getting Started at the Starting Line:

Shannon admits it would have been a blessing to have the program's teachings to help her manage that loneliness in the past. Her path to this scholarship began just this year, with her first steps towards joining the program began with an advertisement for The Well Being at a local brewery near her home. For her, the pairing made sense.

Mental health and exercise can go hand in hand. I’m not opposed to medication, but I personally do not like medication for me, so this was something that I knew would be a really good fit.”

She got in touch, asked to see someone who might have similar life experiences and was matched with one of the counselors.

In one of her early sessions, she found herself distracted by Still I Run Founder and Executive Director Sasha Wolff filming a TV spot in the lobby. Sasha was discussing the Starting Line Scholarship, and her counselor encouraged her to join. After some research, Shannon applied.

“One of the main reasons I did this was to be part of a team. I knew I needed to be part of something to keep me engaged, to keep me engaged in community, with other people who want to achieve something, whether it be with their mental health or with their running.” Shannon adds, “There have been a couple times that I’ve sat at home going, oh my gosh ‘I don’t want to go do this, I do not want to do this.’ Then I get here and I’m so glad I did this.”

Finding Connection:

Early on, as the group started to get to know one another and feel more comfortable together, one interaction affirmed the sense of community she was seeking. A member of the group, someone who was clearly a long-distance runner, settled in next to her.

“She’s going at my pace, which is slow. I said ‘hey, I’m going to have to stop and walk, you can go ahead’ and she said, ‘No, I’m going stay with you today’ ...and I just thought that was the kindest thing I’d heard from somebody, and it made my day, it just absolutely made my day.”

Running side by side, there was a togetherness in that moment, in that time spent. A reminder that the running, at whatever pace, was a starting line. She’d found a path towards relief in the face of loneliness and depression.

Lost in remembering that feeling Shannon adds, “That was very special to me, she stayed with me for the whole two miles.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from the Starting Line Scholarship, we invite you to check it out at our website here! Applications are selected on a rolling basis!


By Jason Holton

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