Guest Blog Post By: Megan Riesner
Megan Riesner, from Naperville, IL., is a third-year college student at Arizona State University, studying Broadcast Journalism and Sports Journalism. She is a former Miss Illinois Teen USA titleholder for the Miss USA/Miss Universe Organization. Throughout Miss. Riesner’s reign, she had the opportunity to be a part of things much bigger than herself. She averaged 1-2 charity events per week, and has held charity events and foundations for years before that. As someone who comes from a family that has been affected greatly by cancer, it was important to her to constantly give back to others to make a positive impact.
One of the many rewards of being a former titleholder for the Miss Universe organization representing Illinois as Miss Illinois Teen USA 2015, is the opportunities it has brought to me and the doors it has opened. A couple weeks ago, after reaching out to the event staff, I participated in my first ever Warrior Dash. I have been volunteering for St. Jude (as well as raising funds benefiting pediatric cancer) since I was eight years old.
When I was eight, I was watching an Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Watching an ill child’s room get renovated brought me infinite joy and gratitude seeing that act of kindness. That was enough to make me realize what my purpose was in life. After seeing that episode, I turned to my mom and asked if we could get right in the car to go to the craft store. While roaming the aisles in Michael’s, I found colorful beads and elastic band and began beading $1 bracelets at local sporting events to donate to children’s hospitals or non-profit organizations like St. Jude. I believe that episode was my inspiration to realize that is my aspiration and my purpose: to dedicate as much as I can to help those who are not as fortunate as I am, and to do everything humanly possible to try to enrich their quality of life.
Last year, I learned about Warrior Dash when my good friend participated in Arkansas. Warrior Dash is much more than 3.1 miles and 12 world-class obstacles to conquer. The dollars fundraised by St. Jude Warriors go directly towards the St. Jude Red Frog Events Proton Therapy Center. Proton therapy is the most advanced form of radiation technology available to patients, because it allows doctors to target cancerous cells with high doses of radiation while sparing nearby healthy cells and vital organs located by the tumor. This is a run that is dedicated to the children and fighting their diseases. I thought that was enough of a reason to get involved. Don’t you??
For the Chicago event, I signed my brother up with me who is a collegiate, Division 1 Athlete, and who also has a love for charity events. I thought my brother, Michael, would be the ideal motivator to remind me if the run got tough, to keep pushing through. That is what the kids do who are brave enough to go through treatment and fight their disease. Those kids never give up and neither would we!
From struggling to bury my fear of heights on the Diesel Dome, fighting through the Mud Trenches, using my upper body strength to overcome the Warrior Summit, not being aware I would slide into a mud pool after Goliath, to hiking through a muddy forest to get from obstacle to obstacle, I realized during the 5K that Warrior Dash was much more than a charity event. One of the great memories was the teamwork and encouragement everyone gave to each other from cheering each other on, to words of encouragement or just that gentle push to get through an obstacle. What I found most admirable about the day was the different types of people who were there participating. You do not have to be an elite athlete to run the race. You can be a beginner and do what is comfortable to you. Luckily, I was surrounded by the most inspiring groups during my race. There was no such thing as, “competition” or “intimidation.” Every group was there for a similar purpose and to watch each other push themselves to their highest potential. People would encourage me and cheer. They would talk me through the obstacle and keep ensuring me of my safety. What a breath of fresh air that was! Not to mention, the atmosphere was electric with music to get the warriors motivated and excited. Prior to, and after the race, there were different stations of activities to participate in and enjoy in the Warrior Dash Festival.
After completing the race, I was ready to get back in line and do it all over again. I wanted to again experience the raw emotion I endured throughout the event. It was truly the most exhilarating event I have ever done and I was so proud of myself for completing it. I will continue to do Warrior Dash Illinois as well as travel to other states to partake in others, because let’s be honest, one annually is just not enough to receive that life-changing feeling!
Ways to get involved in Warrior Dash:
Change YOUR life today by signing up, and the lives of many who need your donations! I promise you, it will be one of the greatest decisions you will make!