I am the same as many of you. I was once motivated to make a difference because of unnecessary loss. My life hasn’t been the same since colon cancer took the life of my sister and best friend, Susie Lindquist Mjelde.
“Get Your Rear in Gear” took over my life the day the words flowed out of my sister’s mouth. I heard happiness in her voice and saw the visions only a sugar plum fairy could bring. Susie was frustrated by the fact that colon cancer awareness and early screening were two key ingredients that were clearly missing from the recipe box for enjoying full lifetimes.
Susie’s motivation to change the fate of late stage colon cancer was inspiring and convinced her family and friends to join her in an existing walk and run. In 2001, about twenty-five family members and friends dressed themselves in shirts wearing “Get Your Rear in Gear…early detection saves lives” and walked or ran in the Mercer Island Half Rotary Half-Marathon for Rotary Charities. Within a couple of years, the Mercer Island Rotary honored her efforts and changed the name to Mercer Island Rotary Half-Marathon for Colon Cancer Prevention and Rotary Charities.
It was a bittersweet experience in 2003 when I joined my family and had the great fortune of running the half-marathon. Eight of my friends from around the United States joined me for the trip to experience thousands of people running or walking the half-marathon, 8K, 5K or kids’ dash. It was a great high in life to run alongside a young survivor in the midst of a sea of thousands of people wearing the words “colon cancer” on their shirts.
After the race, my family hosted a party at the Mercer Island Beach Club where the rotary president joined us to award my niece, Heather, with the top female finisher award. Tears were shed, because her mother, Susie, wasn’t alive to witness the moment. Joy was also felt that afternoon, as we knew we were carrying on my sister’s wishes to make a difference.
The “race-day high” at the Mercer Island Half-Marathon for Colon Cancer Prevention and Rotary Charities stuck with me. I was moved by the people and impressed by how the Mercer Island Rotary was giving funds raised directly back to the community to change the disease. The race was the perfect mold for creating the first Get Your Rear in Gear event. So, I consider the Mercer Island run, the real birthplace of Get Your Rear in Gear and the Twin Cities the birth place of the organization.
So, why do I get my rear in gear…years later? Thousands of people I’ve come to know continue to make me believe we can change this disease and we do it best together. I get my rear in gear, because I see my sister in her granddaughter Ella Susan’s eyes (see pic) and I know we can help others live to see their grandchildren.
It is an honor each time I attend a Get Your Rear in Gear – where ever it may be. I feel the same high I felt the morning on Mercer Island. It is a camaraderie only known to those on race day. Strangers become immediate friends with a smile similar to the one I saw in my sister. Knowing we are making a difference, I look forward to the day when we celebrate the words “cure.”
Get Your Rear in Gear® proudly models the giving-back of funds raised by events to local communities, much to that of the rotary Four-Way Test:
Of the things we think, say or do
• Is it the TRUTH?
• Is it FAIR to all concerned?
• Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
• Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?