This is not a sponsored post. This is something two of my close friends are doing, and I think is so fantastic, I want to share it with you.
Have you heard of I Run 4? I Run 4 is a program where runners are matched with a child or adult with special needs, or the sibling of a child with special needs (Unsung Heroes, see below). That person becomes the runner’s “buddy,” and, you guessed it, the runner runs (or does other activities) for them!
Each runner interacts with their buddy or their buddy’s parents through the group’s buddy Facebook page or the group’s sibling Facebook page, posting about the runs/activities they have done for their buddies and sharing photos. Runners are encouraged to wear their buddy’s name during a race, make a special shirt for their buddy, make them signs, take photos with something special they like, or (with permission) send their buddy race medals! The I Run 4 site has merchandise ideas, as well.
What a cool program, right?
I was really surprised I hadn’t heard about this until recently, when two of my friends started participating! Dawn has had a buddy for quite some time, and Kelly just got hers! I sent them a few questions so I could share their experience with the program!
Thank you so much to Dawn and Kelly for letting me interview them and sharing their photos (and getting permission to post them)!
How did you hear about I Run 4?
Dawn: Through the Grayslake Running Club [four other members of the club participate in I Run 4].
Kelly: My best friend told me about the organization after I expressed a concern for future motivation. I returned to work in December, accepting a weekend nurse position. The only con to accepting this position would be losing my weekend long run and signing up for weekend races. Dawn suggested I sign up for a buddy to keep me motivated by sharing my running journey. Having someone to run with and/or for is motivationally inspiring!!
Why did you decide to participate in I Run 4?
Dawn: Because I have a high school classmate who had a terrible car accident 15 years ago that left him disabled. At our 30th high school class reunion (in 2012), I was humbled at how much he lost (though he’s not in a wheelchair, he is considered “disabled” and cannot drive or work) and had to depend on others for just the basic things to live life (like getting to the grocery store, doctor, to an event). It made me realize how fortunate I truly was to be able to run and do crazy things like Spartan races.
Kelly: I agreed with Dawn’s suggestion. I researched the organization right away but then held off questioning if my running/walking/biking journey would actually motivate or inspire another. Once Dawn was matched and I started seeing all of her posts, I saw the excitement and gratitude from her, her buddy and his family. So I signed up in early June.
How long did it take to be assigned to a buddy?
Dawn: About four months.
Kelly: Several weeks ago the I Run 4 organization started a buddy program for the siblings, referring to them as the Unsung Heroes. In the short time I have been involved with I Run 4 several of the buddies have passed, leaving many siblings behind. For the siblings who have a special need sibling, they often feel left out/behind. Having a buddy, just like their special needs sibling, would help bond their sibling relationship. I signed up for a sibling buddy at the beginning of August and was matched on August 10th!
Do you put any requests in for the “type” of buddy, or fill out a sort of questionnaire?
Dawn: You can select to be a buddy for a child or an adult or either. Other than that there wasn’t any other questions that I recall had to be answered.
Kelly: No. I just submitted my name and basic demographic information.
Are there costs to participate?
Dawn: No, but you have to have a Facebook account because that is the way runners and buddies communicate. I am also “friends” with his mom, though I don’t believe that is required. It just lets us be more “connected” and supportive.
What costs have you incurred on your own?
Dawn: I bought Zach a $3.00 t-shirt and bought a “Dawn Runs 4 Me” iron on decal. I have also bought 2 “I Run 4 Zach” decals for my car and I’ve registered for 3 virtual races (a 10k already run, a 5K and a half both coming up in September).
Kelly: Thus far none, however I have only been matched for a week. I plan on making temporary tattoos, shirts and possibly a tote bag for myself & my buddy.
Does I Run 4 give you guidelines?
Dawn: They have guidelines on what can be posted in the Facebook group. It is to be a positive atmosphere. You cannot post links to races or fundraisers. You are not allowed to use derogatory language. The I Run 4 organization also has a separate Facebook group for virtual races where the medals that come with your paid registration fee already include a medal for the buddy. Usually with these virtual races you can also purchase additional medals (ie for a sibling) and/or tshirts other gear at reasonable prices. Proceeds, I believe, go back into the organization.
Kelly: Yes – there are rules on the Facebook page.
Kim’s Edit – rules such as not to leave your buddy behind (it’s a permanent match), I Run 4 Siblings must have a special needs buddy already matched, one runner will be matched to one sibling, only matches made by I Run 4 will be honored, matches will be made according to the waiting list.
Does I Run 4 set things up for you?
Dawn: They provide you with your match’s name and contact person (typically a parent). They provide ongoing support to rectify buddy/runner issues (eg needing a rematch, etc.).
Kelly: Yes, the organization does all the matching the posts the matches several times a week on the private FB page. The runner & parent are tagged in the post. It is the responsibility of the runner & parent to initiate contact and post.
How often and how do you interact with your buddy?
Dawn: My buddy is 8 years old. I try to post at least once every day. Sometimes I post more than once. I don’t worry about if his mom is posting back but if I don’t see any activity (such as a ‘like’) from her for a day or two, I’ll double check to make sure she sees the post because… you know… Facebook can sometimes be cranky! All interaction has been through Facebook. His mom and I are “friends” on Facebook.
Kelly: I post to the FB each time I run and/or bike, so about 4-5 times a week. I may also post when my 4-year-old son does a race. My buddy seems interested in my children, so I may post his races to see if she likes them. Continue reading 'I Run 4'»