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Archive for the ‘Bank of America Chicago Marathon’ Category

Hi there!

Things are picking up for the season here at CAT!  We have 5 new summer interns, we have a Clinical Frame published to our website, we gave away 5 sliced watermelons at the Ravenswood Run on April 29, we’ve worked with 121 young people in April and May (that’s almost twice as many young people as we worked with in all of 2009!), we have more volunteer training planned than we’ve ever had before…  The list goes on and on.  For details, check out our Facebook page.

We handed out 5 sliced watermelons at the Ravenswood Run






What I’m struck by is the power of ongoing relationships.  I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean.

  • We met “Bob” in the summer of 2007, during a pilot program that, at the time, I thought was a total bust.  We ran into him again in June of 2010 when we started programming with The Night Ministry.  He was on the Youth Parliament with The Night Minsitry, and his area of responsibility was with Adventure Club.  We got to watch his leadership grow for two years.  Now he’s in his mid-20’s, working and going to school.  He’s also in our Leadership Program this year.  It’s really great for us to get to watch his life change, and watch the success he’s wrung from difficult circumstances.
  • We met “Humberto” in late summer of 2010.  Some of you know who he is – he’s the reason we gave out watermelon a few weeks ago.  That was the first year the Chicago Adventure Therapy was a Contributing Charity with the Chicago Marathon.  When we found out “Humberto” was running the Marathon, we offered him the same thing we offered our Charity runners – we asked what he’d like for us to have waiting for him at our cheering station at Mile 14.  He hesitated a minute, and then said quietly, “Well – I like watermelon.”  So began our 2 and half year tradition of handing out watermelon at road races.  In 2011 “Humberto” showed up to a program with bruises on his face.  He’d made the decision to leave the gang he’d been involved with for many years and had been “beat out” by his peers and friends.  In his own words, “Humberto” “messed up” his Freshmen year; since then he’s gone to Saturday School

    Paddling at Jackson Harbor

    and evening classes, and is on track to graduate from High School on time in just a few weeks.  He’s looking for a summer job in order to save for college.  And he’s participating in our Leadership program along with “Bob.”

  • The leadership program that “Bob” and “Humberto” are both a part of has been planned by Stephanie Miller, our Program Coordinator who started with CAT in 2010 as a summer intern from Loyola’s School of Social Work.  We’ve been lucky to have interns from Loyola since 2009; we couldn’t do the programming we do without the amazing students who come to us from Loyola.  We’ve had young people racing in the Chicago Shoreline Marathon since summer 2010, and wouldn’t be able to do it without logistical help from The Northwest Passage.  And the volunteers I told you about earlier? — we wouldn’t be able to have our young people racing the 8-mile course of the Shoreline instead of the relay course, that stays right on the same beach, if it weren’t for a corps of dedicated volunteers willing to train with our youth on a weekly basis, so that our young people and our volunteers can complete this course safely.

Enjoying good weather and good company at the 2010 Chicago Shoreline Marathon

It’s been 5 years since we met “Bob” and started developing the relationships that have allowed for some amazing opportunities for our young people.  Heading into 2012, we can’t wait to see what the next 5 years bring.  We hope you’ll be part of them with us!  If you want to join us, give us a shout or  Or if  you’re a runner and “Humberto’s” watermelon sounds good, email us at to learn how you can race with us, raise funds to help us change lives for more Chicago youth, and get some watermelon while you’re at it.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

–Andrea and the CAT team.

Meaghan ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for CAT last year. Thanks, Meaghan! Read about her experience below and see some of the pictures CAT staff took at the Charity Block Party at Mile 14! For more info on the Chicago Marathon, head over to our racing page!
Meaghan writes:
I was approached by my very dear friend, Stephanie Miller, one day and asked, “Hey, have you ever thought about running the marathon?” I replied, “Well, yes, actually, I have. It’s one of the things on my life’s to-do list, my bucket list.” Stephanie quickly responded, “Would you want to run it this year?” Oh, wow, this year? I hadn’t been running very consistently and had always figured a marathon was a few years away. I told Stephanie I wasn’t sure, but asked her why she had asked. Was she planning on running it?? Because if she was going to run it, I totally was going to run it. Sadly, she told me that she was not planning on running, but that the organization that she works for, CAT, was looking for runners to fundraise for them and run the marathon. Then, I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe if I was supporting a good cause and if they helped me out a bit, I just might be able to pull it off. Of course, I was still skeptical about my ability to actually run this thing, but figured I’d hear her out. She told me that CAT would assist me in fundraising and would provide me with a coach. The amount I had to raise for CAT was a very attainable goal and I knew I would definitely need a coach if I was going to run A MARATHON! So, to both our amazement, I agreed! Uh oh, what did I get myself into? Oh, well. Too late. And, that feeling quickly passed. I was happy to be raising money for such a great organization. CAT is such a unique organization that does really great work with inner-city youth. I enjoyed telling people who I was raising money for and most people had never heard of CAT. I enjoyed spreading the word.
At the beginning, before I had started training, there were a couple meetings with a couple of the other runners to throw around some fundraising ideas. The ideas from someone who had ran a few races and had experience fundraising was helpful. She let us know how often to email people, what types of things to include in the emails, and just some good tips about fundraising. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in any group fundraising, but that probably would have been a lot of fun.
The best part of being associated with CAT for the marathon was access to Coach Brendan and his running group. I emailed Coach Brendan a billion times, a few before I even met him, asking him all kinds of questions – did I need new shoes?; how should I be changing my diet?; should I try to get out of this commitment?; am I really going to be ready to run a marathon at the end of this?. He is an amazing guy who kindly answered all of my questions and didn’t make me feel strange for asking all of them. Coach Brendan was available via email for any question I had along the way. He would make sure he spent time getting to know you when you showed up for training runs and he would run or bike alongside you to watch your form, ask how you were doing, and give you some tips. He was always available after runs to talk about how you were feeling. I met some great people through this training group and ran with some of them on race day and still keep in touch with them – and am planning to run with them again this Spring to train for a half-marathon (yes, just a half…the full thing is no joke!).
Ok, I know earlier I said the best thing about running for CAT was the Coach Brendan training, but I lied. There were a few “best” things: Coach Brendan, fundraising for CAT, meeting new people, talking about CAT along the way,…but I think the best part for me was seeing Stephanie out of nowhere run up to me with a sign she had made for me and having her run alongside me telling me how proud she was and how thankful she was that I ran for CAT. Since then, I have met more of the CAT family and everyone is so passionate about what they do for CAT. It was hard to say no to Stephanie when she asked me to run the marathon because I know she so strongly believes in CAT and its mission, which made me want to do what I could to help support that. Now, after meeting even more members of CAT, I can honestly say I am so glad I did it and I wouldn’t want to fundraise for anyone else. I won’t be running the marathon for a while (if ever), but I’ll be sure to make CAT my fundraising beneficiary if I do!
I want to introduce you to “Humberto.”  We first met him in August of 2010; he was pleasant, quiet and polite.  When we saw him again in early October, we learned while we were drinking hot cocoa after paddling into the evening that “Humberto” was going to be running the Chicago Marathon in a couple weeks.  We were going to have a cheering station halfway through the course, so we asked “Humberto” what he might like for us to have for him there – something he couldn’t carry with him.
We were a bit surprised when he answered,
“Well, I like watermelon.”   
So started our now 2-year tradition of handing out watermelon at Mile 14 at the Marathon.
“Humberto” paddled in the Flatwater Classic race with us on the Chicago River.  We saw him over the winter when we climbed indoors. We saw him at our very first summer program with this group of guys –  “Humberto’s” small group cycled to the Lincoln Park Zoo and were mesmerized by a tiger.  “Humberto” had never been to the zoo.  He’s 16.

We didn’t see a lot of “Humberto” over the summer.  He had a summer job.  We missed him.
So we were pleased when he showed up for a paddling program in July.
He had bruises on his face. 
For me;
for our staff;
perhaps for you
it’s disconcerting and disturbing to see someone’s face full of bruises
As he talked with Stephanie, he told her about having been “beat out.”  He’d decided to leave the gang – to do that, he had to make an appointment with them to be be beat for 3 minutes.
Cooling off in the Jackson Harbor Fountain
We usually have lots to say about working with this group of young men.
  • About trauma, and the way it re-wires the brain — and the way our programming can re-wire it again, providing access to the cerebral cortex and the ability to think before acting
  • About teaching them what we have come to think of as “Chicago Literacy” – where North is, where downtown or the harbor or the zoo are in relation to their neighborhood, how to get there on CTA, how to read a map – so that these guys can have access to their city
  • About what it is for them to get some simple respite, away from their neighborhood; a chance to let their guard down
  • About the way their faces soften when they start talking about the beauty we introduce them to; about the paucity of beauty in their lives
But when we think of “Humberto,” this is what comes to mind
  • we hope he sticks to his decision
  • we hope his decision gives him more possibility in the rest of his life
  • we can’t claim that we had anything to do with it
  • we’re glad we have had the opportunity to meet him
He has reminded us how hard it can be simply to bear witness.
We hope it matters.
We believe it does.