Two best friends, 13.1 miles to go. A victory lap for all the training miles that had been run, all the sacrifices that had been made; an accomplishment awaits for Cameron Gallagher and her best friend Abby Donelson. For the Gallagher family, watching their daughter and sibling Cameron run her first half marathon with her best friend was nothing short of exhilarating. They could not wait to put their arms around them both at the finish line at the Shamrock Half Marathon at Virginia Beach, Virginia on March 16th, 2014. There are times when words spoken become a mission, and it happened at mile 12. Cameron needed to stretch her legs, and turned to Abby and said “Let’s Finish This.”
They crossed the finish line together, then something was not right with Cameron, and Abby knew it. Cameron saw and came to her parents and fell into their arms and died, for reasons unknown. It was discovered that she had an undiagnosed heart arythmia.
I’m grateful to know David and Grace Gallagher. What comes to mind brings a heaviness to my heart and tears to my eyes, as their daughter just layed there in their arms motionless. She fought the good fight, kept her faith, and finished the race. From the arms of her parents to her heavenly Father’s. Unknowingly when Cameron turned to Abby to Speak Up at Mile 12, the mission was born.
As someone who spends time with kids that have lost a sibling or parent, the grief can be overwhelming. What I have also experienced and seen first hand is how storms in life can bring about purposes and how scars can become a source of strength. Cameron’s best friend, Abby, lost her dad when she was eight years old. An organization that I’m honored to serve is Comfort Zone Camp, a bereavement camp for kids, as a big buddy. I’m proud to serve with Abby as a fellow volunteer. She recently shared her impactful story, her friendship and last day with Cameron, and importance of compassion and Speaking Up when others are down. The Mission at Mile 12.
After listening to her speak about her friendship with Cameron, it is apparent that Cameron’s opponent was herself. She struggled with depression, and it was serious. At one point, she missed two months of school. What did she do? She fought it, the good fight to honor herself. She would fill notebooks with positive thoughts and quotes, hang them on the walls. She forced herself out of bed for swim practices and when she decided to run a half marathon, she forced herself to train. One of her siblings shared with me how fantastic she would feel, and be, after a run. Cameron also fought the impulse of isolation, common among those suffering from depression. Abby remarked “On a really bad day, Cameron wouldn’t want to talk with anyone. But then the next day she’d be back to being the most energetic person in the room,”
Depression affects 16 million Americans, and an insightful piece by Elise Jamison, a teen who suffers from it, provided the following perspectives:
- Depression is often a long journey, and the only ‘cure’ is to make positive healthy choices
- It is hard to explain and answer questions, the best thing you can do to help someone is simply be there
- Realize that you are not alone, seek out others and speak up; that will help the fog clear
The ‘I love you’ said each night before bed, the look in the eyes, the holding of hands as parent and child, the connection that will always be. Cameron’s bedroom, a place where Dave and Grace did not want to go after she died in their arms. The hugs, the smiles, the kiss goodnight, the bedside stories of childhood, the pictures that moved hearts, the stuff animals she loved, the clothes she wore, the notes she wrote. All Cameron, no longer in her room where they long her to be to do all the above. Even just one more time.
A week before she died, Cameron spoke of an idea she had to her parents, a community race to promote childhood depression awareness. She was growing tired of keeping her struggle private, and knew many teens were in great and silent pain. She wanted to address the misplaced stigma about teenage depression. When Dave and Grace finally went into her room, they found it, all 16 pages. The Plan to Speak Up. It was going to be called the SpeakUp 5K, dedicated to raising awareness about childhood depression. It included vision, featured speakers, and sponsorship invitations to local businesses. They shared with me this story, mouths open when they found it. Tomorrow does hold out her hand to us all, and The Mission at Mile 12 was becoming her legacy and an inspiration to others to live 2 Timothy 4:7.
The SpeakUp mission is to fulfill Cameron’s dream and legacy by being a positive force that works to cultivate awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety. She wanted to encourage other teens that it is OK to Speak Up about their personal battles. The annual SpeakUp 5K is to speak up for positive causes and for those that are down and suffering. Running was such a positive influence for Cameron as she fought her battle. The inaugural SpeakUp 5K was in September, 2014 and nearly 3,500 participated. I had the pleasure of being there, and what an uplifting event for the community. It was also the first time I have been silly stringed during a race, Cameron loved that stuff! So did I.
It’s time to finish the race, the same race Cameron did to honor her and her mission to Speak Up with 200 others on the SpeakUp team. A race by the ocean at sunrise at the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA. Been an honor to be on the SpeakUp team and after working out with Dave and Grace at a team event this spring, convinced they could have us all ready for one of their Ironman races!
I have been thinking about the emotions that will certainly be felt as I get closer to Mile 12. I have not been able to run as I would normally, due to my achilles taking away my ability to run for weeks. As I run this race, can’t let doubt get in the way, and going to follow Cameron’s lead; step out in faith and fight all the way to the finish. That is what she did, and her legacy is who she was called to be. Rather than keep running from who she was, she ran to it and faced it. God Bless you Cameron. You have reinforced to us all how amazing it is what can be accomplished when you take a step into the unknown, with full confidence that God will not let you go. You fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished the race. We got next.
So what are we waiting for? Our faith is all it takes.
Until next time,