Saturday, March 8, 2014

Jeff Hodges - Hero for Autism

I love to celebrate people who combine a personal fitness challenge with a charitable cause.  My friend Jeff Hodges did this in stellar fashion, running four 1/2 marathons (13.1 miles) over four consecutive weekends while raising money for the Kelly Autism Program at Western Kentucky University.  He created a campaign called Making a Difference for Kelly Autism Program (MADKAP) in an attempt to raise awareness and funds for students in need of financial aid.  He set a goal of raising $25,000, which the university agreed to match.  The result?  He doubled his goal and, with the university match, raised over $100,000 and established a new scholarship fund.

On his blog, Jeff shared profiles of students in the Kelly Autism Program, starting with his own son, Ryan, who has Asperger Syndrome.  In a Q&A, Ryan said, "This program should be expanded into more schools because of how it helps people like me get our work done...  Graduation rates would increase if this program was in every college in America."

Jeff also recounted his race experiences.  My favorite entry was his final 1/2 marathon on trails in the Raccoon Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Jeff described the race course: "Mud, rocks, puddles, downed trees, stobs (devastating when concealed by leaves), exposed roots, more rocks, moving water, thorny vines and small tree branches growing over the path, race requirement for runners to carry their own sources of hydration, even more rocks, no mile markers or clocks, no bands, no fans, no frills."

Maybe you had no frills, Jeff, but you have a lot of fans.  I'm proud of you.

Jeff Hodges during the rainy 1/2 marathon in Nashville

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