After weeks of training and preparation, runners are rewarded with a medal as a reminder of their physical feat. Instead of holding onto them, some athletes are donating them to Medals4Mettle .
Every so often, a ceremony is held where the earned medals are awarded to kids fighting toward a different kind of finish line.
“I was in a wheelchair for six years. I was also reliant on a feeding tube and a central line for a few years, and now I have both of those out and I'm eating, and I'm walking, and you know, doctors told me I would never do either. So, I proved them wrong," said 18-year-old Ashley Dixon.
Dixon’s been diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a circulatory disorder, among other illnesses.
Before choosing a medal, Dixon’s mom described her daughter’s perseverance and unwillingness to accept the word ‘no.’
Dixon decided the Air Force Half-Marathon medal suited her well.
“I picked it because my cousin was in the Air Force but also because in the Air Force, you fight hard and I see myself at times as a fighter,” said Dixon.
Kelly Maurer, the Charm City Run Annapolis store manager, started the Baltimore chapter of Medals4Mettle in 2009. As a runner, she had collected a number of medals over the years and was looking to do something with them.
“We just want to give them out, we want them to know all these medals have been earned by someone whose done a marathon or half-marathon so they have put many hours and joy in it and to put that medal around someone's neck, a child, or someone who's fighting their own marathon for life, is really what we want to do. So, just to see them smile and give them a little bit of happiness,” said Maurer.
Like five-year-old Nicholas, who liked them all so much, he had a hard time choosing.
Nicholas has an extremely rare type of cancer. He's the 23rd confirmed case ever. These last few months, he's had to be strong, and his dad said, so far, he's kicking cancer's butt.
“He's extremely brave, he just, nothing phases him,” said Nicholas’ mom.
The medal is a reward for his bravery and may even promote healing.
“That makes an improvement in the recovery time, helps speed it up if you can be with your family and be in a warm and loving environment. This is all part of it. The program that Kelly has, Medals4Mettle, it helps us, it's another layer of providing that for our families and you can just see the joy on their faces when they get to do it and that's what makes the difference,” said Susan Salt, the director of operations with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Baltimore, Inc.
For Gage, who recently had his 15th surgery, and Jack, who was born three months early and is now learning to eat without a feeding tube, the medals are for a race they didn't choose to run, and yet they've shown true mettle facing life's challenges.
“So, the time that we put in is really nothing to what they put in and what their families put in. It's not just about them, but their support group, their hospitals, their doctors, it's a journey and hopefully they'll reach that finish line,” Maurer said.
Over 55,000 medals have been given out worldwide. Locally, Maurer said they have a stash of medals on hand and now they’re working to partner with local hospitals to award them to deserving kids.
Medals4Mettle accepts earned marathon, half-marathon, or triathlon medals. They also accept medals earned by children who wish to donate them to other children.
To learn more about how you can donate your medal, click here .
Or visit Charm City Run Annapolis to donate medals to the Baltimore chapter.