I met Mathew at Ironman FL 70.3 about three years ago. This was both our first 70.3 race. We were the last wave to go off so we had plenty of time to talk away our nervous energy. He told me about his charity. On the Monday after the race I went to his website and donated money in his child's name. Since then we have talk through many emails and through our blogs.
The other day (by chance) I came across Shawn's new challenge. He wants the H.O.P.E flag carried at every full Ironman in the US. We'll I happen to be doing Ironman FL 2014 and he needs someone to carry the flag at that race. So I am working with him now to see if we can make that happen.
Here is the Summary
Every 4 ½ minutes a child is born with a congenital birth defect, and it is the leading cause of infant deaths worldwide. This common, costly, and critical epidemic unfortunately does not get enough public attention thus leaving new parents feeling hopeless and alone when they are given the life altering news. Matthew and his wife, Rachel, know this from personal experience. Their only child, Shawn, was born with several birth defects including a 1 in 35 million condition that doctors had never treated before.
“When the doctors told us they had never seen these birth defects before, my wife and I were shocked and heartbroken for our newborn son. I mean what would you do?” Matthew explains, “An anomaly is a deviation from the normal, so I decided to be an anomaly and DO something. I told the doctors that we were going to make a deal. They would do what they could to fix my son, and I would make sure that another doctor could never tell a family what they just told us. That was the best deal I have ever made!”
It took 3 life-threatening surgeries in Shawn’s first year of life, but he survived. Shawn now lives like a typical 4 year old, but his scars serve as a daily reminder of the miraculous medical journey. Matthew kept his end of the deal by starting the non-profit, Shawn’s Anomaly, with a mission to provide education, hope, and help to families affected by congenital anomalies. Matthew also decided to raise awareness for this mission through his own “Anything is Possible” journey transforming from and overweight smoker to Ironman Triathlete.
After he finished Ironman, Matthew had several families send him messages of appreciation for telling their story and sharing their story with him. “It did not take long for me to realize that my journey was not over, and I could do something unique and personal to inspire and encourage other families,” Matthew states. A flag was created that he carried during the 2013 Ironman Florida for the duration of the 26.2 mile run. You can watch a video and find out more about the significance of the design by going to www.hopeflagchallenge.com. Matthew continued, “I knew how hard that would be, but it is not as hard as what they go through on a daily basis. Anything is possible if I just take it one step at a time!” Matthew did just that and most recently again at the Houston Marathon with the flag.
This journey has really brought a lot of inspiration and "hope" to families affected by congenital anomalies while making the public aware of birth defects.
Matthew has decided to take the H.O.P.E. Flag Challenge to a new level in 2014 by watching the flag become a proverbial torch and carried for every marathon mile of the U.S Ironman events by several athletes. He will pass the flag to the first athlete at Ironman Texas and they will run with it like he did at Florida. After completion of the race, the successful athlete will then be flown to the next event where they will pass off the flag to the next athlete.
We are going to document the athlete's stories and training while pairing them up with a family affected by congenital anomalies that is regionally in the area of the race. We plan to tell each family's story and invite them to be there when the athletes finishes with the flag to catch their reaction. Once we collect all the athlete and family stories, we will then put them in a 10 part online documentary series called the Stories of H.O.P.E. and allowing the audience to interact with live chats and podcasts with the athletes, families, and filmmakers.
The audience will also be allowed to submit their videos talking about how it has inspired them to become more active and how they want to join the iDO! Birth Defect Awareness Movement. The final story will be the Ironman World Championship where all of the athletes that carried the flag will meet the athlete at the finish to grab the flag one more time together and raise the flag as a victorious gesture.
He is looking for athletes for the following races..
If you are interested let me know and I will put you in touch with Mathew.
Coeur d'Alene 6/29/14 Coeur d'Alene, ID
Wisconsin 9/7/14 Madison, WI
Chattanooga 9/28/14 Chattanooga, TN
Louisville 10/24/14 Louisville, KY
Arizona 11/16/14 Tempe, AZ
|H.O.P.E. (Helping Others, Providing Education) |