Whitewater Center

Gumping 4 Papa – One for the Ages


Exhale. Breathe. Inhale.

“Yes the rain poured down the last couple nights. Yes, the trails are closed. Wait, closed!? Yes. And yes, we had a “back-up” plan!”

Driving into the U.S. National Whitewater Center, I couldn’t help but reflect 14 days ago, when this 5K for $5K concept was being brainstormed between my good friend Roni and I. I was at $45,000. With $5K remaining, I wanted to create something that would inspire supporters to spread the word in a way that would make people say “I like that idea…A LOT.” IF they liked the idea, I figured $5 was a reasonable amount for most people to contribute. This idea continued to evolve and in the end resulted in the 5K for $5K Challenge!

As usual, I showed up 90 minutes early grabbing my Run4Papa.com sign and walking a couple laps around the rapids to create some early momentum, stopping periodically to chat with people and pass out business cards. We had the biggest 5K showing by far to raise awareness for PPA research as runners, walkers, children and pets all came out to “Gump it Up” for the last challenge. Again, we had the privilege of ALL new faces attending the 5K as well as 3 generations of family members supporting their loved one, Linda Jeppson, a wonderful lady who was diagnosed with PPA 7 years ago. We had a major crew! With the trails closed due to Mother Nature, we improvised by walking down to the rapids and took our largest group picture of all the 5K’s. I informed everyone of the route: 4 laps around the entire whitewater rapids is exactly a 5K. On top of that, everyone was situated around the water making this area an ideal location to create awareness for PPA.

As we started the FINAL Run/Walk 5K, most of the people participating were kind enough to carry signs with them that read “Run4Papa.com,” “Support the Journey,” and “5K for $5K Challenge.” This 5K was intentionally set-up on Thursday night because the Whitewater Center puts on live music and the location is a popular hotspot for Charlotteans to visit after work in the summertime. Thus, I knew a tremendous amount of awareness would be created for THE CAUSE.

This run/walk was phenomenal. People were going at their own pace and because we had such a huge turnout, Run4Papa received tremendous exposure as we hustled around, lap after lap. I sprinted all over the center snapping as many different pictures as possible. Other runners stopped to chat, several bikers wanted to know more about “Papa,” and even kayakers slowed their momentum on the rapids to learn about our message.
Every time we passed by the band and stairs where on-lookers were sitting comfortably drinking their beers and listening to music, people would smile and give us a “thumbs up.” You could see the interest in their faces and I knew we had something special taking place this evening! My fellow “Gumpers” were loving it! Their energy was contagious and anytime we crossed paths along the route, they had massive smiles ear-to-ear and were pumped to be supporting this campaign.

I couldn’t help but being in awe of the children’s facial expressions. They were so happy carrying the signs. They loved running around the water. They were in their element. And for my Papa, a pediatrician of 50+ years, I know he would’ve loved to see this in person because this is what he loved most: parents watching their children do exactly what children should do – enjoying life!
After our 5K, people were inquiring about Run4Papa and making contributions as frequently as they purchased tall boys from the beer vendors. Our fishbowl was filling up quickly and inching us closer and closer to our goal of $5K as well as our overall goal of $50K. Even when I went to the cafe to grab a bite to eat, the waiters and waitresses were putting some of their tip money into our bowl!

I must’ve passed out 200 business cards that evening and knew we would reach our goal by the following day. And sure enough, the next afternoon, 5K for $5K Challenge had accomplished its mission of bringing in over $5,000! By doing so, this journey came full circle. We started with a $5 donation and finished with a $5 donation eclipsing the $50K benchmark for Run4Papa.

On paper, the 5K for $5K seemed like a smart idea, but in reality, it was so rewarding to see this come to fruition. The success of this challenge is directly attributed to the countless number of supporters willing to jump on the “Gump bandwagon” and make a $5 contribution. For all those that showed up – “Thank you!” For all those that I know personally who helped spread the word -“Thank you!” And to all those I may never meet in person but believed in this idea – “Thank you!”

5 down, 0 left. Next stop: Great Wall of China Marathon!!!

If you have any questions, please email: [email protected]

To make a donation go to: PPA Research and Education Fund (Run4Papa)

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