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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet My Friend: Kellie - The Inspiration Behind Her Decision to Run a Half Marathon

Meet my friend, Kellie.

I first met Kellie in late 1992. I flew from my hometown of Perth to Sydney to spend some time with my sister, Valda's, old friend, Diana, from her school days.

Kellie was working for Diana at the time, and we instantly clicked. We had a hoot hanging out in Sydney together, and Kellie even visited me in Perth the following year.

In late 1995, Hubby and I moved to Sydney, and it was Kellie who collected us from the airport and then helped me go apartment hunting. On one such expedition, a real estate agent picked us up on Oxford Street in Paddington to drive us to an apartment in Woolloomooloo. He played the rap song Gangsta's Paradise really loud and drove like an absolute maniac! Kellster (as I like to call her) and I got out, and both felt ill. We politely refused his offer to drive us back to Oxford Street.

Then Kellie moved overseas for a while. She came to my wedding in January 2000, and we promptly lost contact for ten whole years!

I finally tracked her down in Melbourne, and when I visited there last year, we caught up for brunch. Apart from sharing stories of where our own lives had taken us during those ten long years, Kellie told me a story about a friend's terrible loss that really stuck with me. That same story would become the inspiration and driving force behind Kellie's decision to run a Marathon in September. For Kellie, a 'non-runner' like me, this has been a great challenge.

Here's Kellie story about why she was inspired to run a marathon, and how her training has been going:

Kellie writes:

In September 2009, my dear friend Emma married her partner Noel Shearing, affectionately known to all - including Emma - as Shez.

Emma invited me to be her bridesmaid, which was an absolute thrill. Their wedding was in Sri Lanka. Emma and Shez lived in Hong Kong at the time although they have family and close friends living in Australia, Dubai, and the United Kingdom (Shez was English, from Durham and Emma is from Belfast, Ireland) as well as Hong Kong. They decided to choose a location for their wedding that was unique, beautiful and kind of almost central for everybody, hence Sri Lanka being their choice.

The wedding was held on the 19 September at the Fortress Hotel in Galle. It was stunning, wonderful, and a very special gathering of almost 50 guests who travelled to Sri Lanka for the big event. We had a crazy fun four days together celebrating Emma and Shez's union. Emma was the most relaxed bride I’ve ever met, and Shez was equally a very chilled out groom. Having many of their nearest and dearest in the one place at the one time was a rare occasion and they made the most of it.

Shez and Emma on their wedding day
As I was travelling to Sri Lanka on my own, I decided to spend some time volunteering after the wedding, so I spent a week at St Anthony’s which is a home for abused and neglected children. After the wedding weekend I travelled by tuk-tuk and then train to Hewidawela, a very small village very different to Galle.

I had an amazing week with the kids of St Anthony’s – many of whom had been forced to live on the streets and fend for themselves despite their age – but you’d never know it to meet them. They were warm, happy kids who got up to the usual kid stuff. I’m sure those of you who are mothers will understand!

My time in Sri Lanka filled my heart – the time with Emma and Shez and their families and friends, then the time at St Anthony’s gave me so much! I felt so out of my comfort zone when I was leaving Melbourne for Sri Lanka, and so happy and fulfilled when I returned. It was a wonderful experience.

Then, just seven weeks after the wedding I got the worst phone call I’ve ever known in my life. 

Emma had just landed in London from Hong Kong. There’d been an accident and Shez had passed away.

Shez had spent the weekend in London after flying over from Hong Kong for a job interview late the previous week. He took advantage of the chance to catch up with his close-knit group of mates – the boys went to school and played rugby together and were still a team. Sadly, the accident took place on a boys' night out.

After Shez died in November, a number of people wanted to make a donation to St Anthony’s in his memory. It seemed to happen naturally and everybody knew this was what both Shez and Emma would want.

The charity that raises money for St Anthony’s is Australian based – called the Kathleen Keegel Children’s Fund (KKCF). The couple who run the children’s home are Olivia and Fred Bartholomeusz, a Sri Lankan couple who raised their own family in Australia before deciding to return to Sri Lanka to ‘give back’. This move was inspired by Olivia’s mother, Kathleen Keegel, who was very charitable - hence the name.

The board of KKCF is very family oriented – Fred and Olivia’s son Damian, two of Olivia’s sisters, and some others. On 1 December, Olivia’s sister Georgie came around to my house to invite me to join the board of directors, which I accepted.

As the money raised in memory of Shez continued to increase, coming from  all over the world, Emma wanted to do more for the kids at St Anthony’s. She organised an event in Shez’s home town of Durham last November, a charity rugby match with his old school team playing the competition. They held a fundraising event afterwards and raised a lot of money for KKCF and another local charity.

Emma also invited people to run a half marathon (to be held on the 18 September this year) in memory of Shez, as a fundraiser for KKCF. This was unexpected – none of us are runners (except Emma’s brother). But we all thought, if it’s in memory of Shez, we’ll do it!

So the fun began. Last October I started with a ‘couch to 5km’ program, having never run in my life, even as a kid. I started with 1 minute walk, 1 minute run, as you do. Slowly, slowly increasing. By May, I was running 5km, then in July 10km, and now I’m doing 14-15kms. We are all working very hard with our training and have 5 weeks to go. It is undeniably the most challenging physical thing I’ve done, but we are so much fitter than we were a year ago.

If you would like to sponsor Kellie, please head to her sponsor page HERE. I know she'd really appreciate your support, as would Emma and Shez.

1 comment:

Megan Blandford said...

Kellie, it's such a tragic story but so inspiring that you're all pulling together to do something to help those kids. Good luck with the marathon!