In the wake of the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy, it is nice to take comfort in an empowering story of selflessness – a story that rekindles feelings of love and the human spirit.
Often times, following a senseless crisis, we stand around, shell shocked in disbelief and ask ourselves, “what can I possibly do to help?” Thirty four year old Florida resident Brian Mora asked himself this exact question, and, unlike many, was able to produce a viable answer!
Brian first learned of the Sandy Hook shooting when his mother sent him a CNN Breaking News Alert and upon turning on the television, he saw live coverage of the details as they unfolded. In the weeks following the shooting, a friend of Brian’s reached out to him, providing information about one of the victims, 7 year old Chase Kowalski.
As stated by Chase’s parents on the memorial website created for their son,
Chase was an amazing son, brother, and grandson whose heart was only filled with love for all the people he touched. He was a fun-loving, energetic boy who had a true love of life. He completed his first triathlon at the age of six and ran in many community road races.
The fact that this young boy was so enthusiastic about triathlons and running resonated with Brian. As an avid runner and triathlete himself, Brian was eager to help keep Chase’s passion alive!
A local triathlon club in South Florida organized a memorial run for the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. People came from all over to participate and Brian created a team of five adults who would “Race for Chase” the entire 26 miles – 1 mile for each victim. Their team was also joined by 7 year old, Logan, who ran 3 miles in honor of the victims.
Unbeknownst to Brian, an official Race 4 Chase organization had already been established by Chase’s family and friends for athletes; athletes like Brian who wished to “turn tragedy into triumph and honor Chase’s love for sports”. In addition to his desire to contribute monetarily to the cause, Brian made the decision to dedicate his entire 2013 race season to Chase.
Brian created his own YouTube video to promote awareness for the fundraising aspect of his mission. He was even in direct contact with Race 4 Chase and they allowed him to design the triathlon gear for the organization.
Over the course of the following 10 months, Brian completed 18 races of varying distances, totaling 391 miles for the year. Often times, this meant racing back to back weekends, and in one instance, it included completing the 2013 NYC Marathon just seven days after racing a 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon in Miami. Originally, Brian scheduled the Miami 70.3 to be his final race of the season, but once he was contacted by Chase’s mother, Rebecca, and asked to run the NYC Marathon, it was something he was compelled to do.
Throughout his campaign for Chase in 2013, Brian was able to raise over $30,000 for the Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation (CMAK). The vision for the memorial foundation is to create Chase’s Place: A community center designed around wellness, both mental and physical.
In speaking with Brian regarding his 2013 race season, one of the major highlights for him was meeting Chase’s family in August. They heard of the extent to which Brian was honoring their son and wished to meet him in person. Through a project called The Sandy Ground Project (sandygroundproject.org), The New Jersey Firemen’s Benevolent Assosication intends to fund and build 26 new playgrounds in the tristate area to memorialize each of the victims. Chase’s playground was the 8th one built and is located in Normandy Beach, NJ. Brian was able to fly up to New Jersey and spend a few days with Chase’s parents and sisters.
He was able to give Chase’s family all of his race numbers and medals he had earned up to that point in the year. They were very touched by this and lined their mantle with these symbols of Brian’s dedication to honoring their son. Rebecca mentioned to Brian that Chase always wanted a room full of trophies and medals and this warmed his heart, along with a very special bracelet that the family presented him.
As 2013 comes to a close, Brian does not see this as the end of his involvement with Race 4 Chase. The bonds he has made with Chase’s family and friends are those that will last a lifetime.
He will continue to race for Chase throughout all of his future personal endeavors, as well as, continue to contribute money to the foundation and assist in whatever way possible with future projects.
This year, CMAK established an alliance with the YMCA. It was extremely inspiring to see a grassroots effort to remember Chase’s spirit come together in a real, tangible way. My hope is to play a role that keeps Chase’s sprit alive, raises awareness, and allows the memories of this little guy to florish
The direct link for Brian’s fundraising efforts can be found at http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/brian-mora/race4chase!