Stefanie has been following Still I Run since Sasha Wolff first founded the organization. Stefanie, a working mother of five, had struggled with her mental health for as long as she could remember. Stefanie’s struggle with her mental health had impacted both her personal and professional life, and she faced on-the-job consequences while working as a teacher in the military. What drew Stefanie to follow Still I Run was the way Sasha and other members of the organization openly talked about their struggles with mental health; Stefanie had never seen anyone talk openly about the issue, and she found it inspiring.
Stefanie decided to become more involved with the organization and take advantage of one of Still I Run’s programs, the Run.Write.Fight. program. The Run.Write.Fight. Program allows members of the Still I Run community to request a handwritten letter of support from another individual in the community. While Stefanie was working as a teacher in Japan, COVID hit and during her darkest time, she received a letter from Still I Run’s Run.Fight.Write Program which helped her a lot. She also shared that participating in the SIR’s May Mental Health Runstreak helped.
Stefanie had been a runner, but life happened, and she got out of the routine. Since she was interested in getting back into the routine of running, she began looking into the programs SIR offers to runners. That’s when she started the Starting Line Scholarship Program. The Starting Line Scholarship offers coaching, gear, and race entry for runners. When she looked into applying for the Starting Line Scholarship (SLS) program, she was not sure if she would qualify. She wondered if it might only be for people who had not run before. After talking to Mike Camilleri, the SLS program manager, and the coach for the program, she felt like it would be a great program for her to apply for.
Barrier to Running
In the early summer of this year, during her interview with Mike, she mentioned that one barrier for her to start running again was the lack of a running stroller to take Ethan with her. Ethan, Stefanie’s adopted son, is her running partner and the reason she runs. He has shaken baby syndrome, and is wheelchair-bound, blind, and non-verbal. In the past, Stefanie was able to borrow a running stroller that was sturdy enough to carry her now-grown son, but eventually, she had to return it.
Since Still I Run is committed to helping individuals overcome barriers, we found the funding to buy a stroller for her and her son. Stefanie says “it was beyond amazing” and “it changed everything.” The Starting Line Scholarship also provided her with new running shoes and apparel which otherwise would have been hard to afford as a mother of five. With all of those items and the coaching she received through the SLS, she was able to start running again.
Working with Still I Run
Over the course of 12 weeks, Stefanie worked with her SLS coach and trained for the Tour de Ford 10 Miler this past September. We talked to Stefanie about race day, and she told us with a big smile that the feeling at the end of the race was great. Of course, Ethan and her husband were with her along the course. Since portions of the race were on a trail, Stefanie and her husband arranged that she would hand off the stroller to him during those times. Then as soon as she got back onto paved sections, her husband would hand the stroller back to her. Stefanie said Ethan had a ton of fun and started clapping when he knew they were nearing the finish line.
Support Comes in Many Forms
It was not only the running stroller that gave Stefanie the hope and ability to run again, but it was also the coaching support. Her training plan considered that she not only ran but that she was also pushing her 180-pound son. She had to not only focus on her own needs during her run, but also the needs of Ethan. When times got rough, her coach and others involved in the SLS program encouraged her to keep going. Stefanie says that this experience “has changed my life.” For Stefanie, the race at the end of her SLS program did not close this new running chapter in her life. Thanks to her “forever” stroller, she and her family can now participate in more activities together. While her husband and four kids ride their bikes, Stefanie can skate and push Ethan in the stroller. She continues running or skating with him and participating in races.
Just do it!
We asked Stefanie what she would tell someone who may be on the fence about applying for the SLS, and she said that they should “just do it.” “It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, it doesn’t matter how little you have run, it is just about starting.” Stefanie says that she had to walk at first and then rotated between walking, running, and skating. Running allows her to look forward to something after working long hours as a teacher. To her Still I Run is not all about encouraging running, but any kind of physical activity that serves to improve your quality of life and mental health.