Success Stories – September 2013

Southeast

2.9.1   Ed Aponte – Finishing the Race Strong

On Sunday, August 24, 2014, I became an Ironman for the second time. That however is not my success story. That is a byproduct of my story. To do the story justice I need to take you back two years when I was attempting to complete my first Ironman race. 

At that point I was DC of Unstoppable in the SE Region. My then Chief of Staff is the current DC Jeremy Leggett and was my support man for the race. As some may know, when I got to the 18th mile of the marathon and 132 miles into my day, I seriously considered quitting. This same theme was showing up in many places in my life. The one constant thing that was showing up as well was the love and support of one man specifically. 

Leggett got me through the marathon portion of my first Ironman race just like he got me through my divorce, completing as DC, becoming RC. And on Sunday he was there for me in the marathon again. The difference this time was that I was much better prepared and had a much better experience. 

My win is not my accomplishments thus far. My win is a relationship with a man that has stood the test of time and tribulations of life. A relationship that will never erode. I’m proud that he is leading our division, competing in his first Ironman in November, being a leader in recovery, and being a faithful husband and loving father. 

My win is the leadership of our Region in the Southeast.

Southwest

2.9.2.   Jacques Howlett – Man on a Mission

(Video: 2_9_2_success_howlettVideo.mp4)

Success comes in many forms. For each man, it can appear different. For 87-year-old Jacques Howlett of the San Diego Men’s Division, success would come in an arduous journey, one that would stretch him to the limit.

Having broken his hip in July 2013, Howlett had been bed-ridden for months. His rehab was progressing slowly, and yet he still held the vision of walking from his La Mesa home on Adele to East Bradley – a trip .1 miles in distance. 

Having joined him on his trek, his men’s team of Code of Armor cheered on when he finished just in time for the circle up at this destination. 

Howlett focused on his philosophy of not taking anything for granted and defeating negativity. He said at the time of completing his walk, “I done did it. I was hoping I wasn’t going to disappoint the men on team, wondering if I could really do it. I probably wouldn’t have even started without them, and probably wouldn’t have finished without their energy.” 

New England

2.9.3.  Dan Kempner – Blood is Connective Tissue: The story of a 56er 

Back in the day there were “The 49ers,” those tough old bastards who clawed gold from the earth with their bare hands and crude explosives. Today, there are “The 56ers,” men who donate blood with sanitary needles, comfy barcaloungers and pretty phlebotomists, every 56 days. 

The facts, baldly stated, are these: there is a chronic shortage of blood for transfusions. Despite this, only about 1 percent of the country donates blood. When they do, it is at an average rate of once a year. The goal of the 56ers is to increase the blood supply by having those few who are willing to donate do so six times a year rather than once. 

We in the US are fortunate that we have an extensive volunteer blood supply system. In many parts of the world blood has to be drawn, usually from a family member or friend, when someone is in need of a transfusion. If none is available, or if there is a war or tribal feud in the way, well … that’s that. In other areas blood is a commodity, with donors paid by clinics and hospitals. Yet even with our wonderful American Red Cross (ARC) structure, we are chronically short of blood. 

In researching the blood topic one day I learned that scientists consider it “connective tissue.” That feels appropriate and I see it that way now. In particular, when we donate blood to another person, we are powerfully connected: our blood now runs through their veins. Incredible!

I have donated blood over the years, catch-as-catch-can, since I was 15. I sold my blood once, in Athens, to pay for a few more nights at the hostel. I hit the “blood mobile” at school a few times. In all I’ve racked up quite a few gallons over time, here and there. It felt important but it was always “when the blood mobile is here” or “when I needed some cash.”

Once I happened to be in the Back Bay and I walked past the Red Cross facility on Columbus Ave. I had some time and I literally walked in to the front desk, rolled up my sleeve and said “do me” to the astonished receptionist.

She explained that blood is not simply drawn when convenient, that there are blood drives going on all the time in many locations and that a person has to find one and sign up. I thought, what the hell? Why can’t they take my blood right here at the Red Cross center? I’ll never get to one of these drives – that takes actual planning! Indeed, I did not donate again for some time.

So there it was: I had the soul of a 56er, but not the ethic or the organization.

In recent years however, some friends and I have started to donate every eight weeks – every 56 days, to be exact, the required waiting period before one can donate again. It’s become part of who we are, what we do. Every eighth Saturday is breakfast with the guys and roll up our sleeves. One of my friends calls this our “Rite To Bare Arms,” which feels very clear and true to me. This was the key: to make this a central part of life, and a fun one.

I now have the soul of a 56er and the actual practice, the ritual, to match. 

I don’t know what happens to the blood, or whose life has been saved with it. I only know that, with almost no effort on my part, I have been part of saving dozens, probably hundreds, of lives. In what other way could I, a middle-aged, sedentary citizen, ever find a way to do this? I don’t know, or care. I only know that my blood is now running through the veins of many people who might otherwise be dead. I don’t know them by name, or by sight, and they don’t know me. I don’t know if they are men or women, democrats or republicans, white, black or purple. Yet now we are connected by that most powerful of all connective tissues: our blood.

To become a 56er or to get more information, go to www.blooddriveforlife.com

Finally, once you’ve donated, e-mail us at Info@BloodDriveForLife.com and let us know where and when you donated. We will sign you up as a 56er. We’ll contact you when it’s time for The 56ers to Bare Arms, to share our connective tissue, the next time.

2.9.4.  Thomas Roane – I am the Teacher  

Ever since I did my Sterling Weekend in May 1992, I have found more and more of myself feeling
the fulfillment of giving away what I have learned. 

I have learned how to prepare myself by first doing a CPR. A couple of years ago I become one of the many leaders in my church. I spent many Thursday nights running group for Celebrate Recovery (For Men with Hurts, Habits, and Hang-ups). Talking to men and coming from my heart is me. 

Helping men to realize where they are in life and how to help themselves by using the men around them. My church also has Life Groups, which are weekly and are based on any part of life using the Gospel. I just set up a curriculum on “Manhood Restored” and “How the Gospel makes Men whole.” This is for the Fall 2014 cycle, which is starting up in one month. 

This is what I do, what I strive for, and bring to men. Doing the work to get to this point is a great gift for me. I now understand how my “being” effects everything around me and how it moves me forward.

2.9.5. Leon Proctor – Trusting the Cane

It took many years for Leon Proctor to trust his cane as a way of life.  He worked up to it, along with his developing trust in his men’s team. It was a symbiotic process. As Proctor came to grips with his growing blindness, he was bitter and defiant to the extreme.  He was 18 years old when he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which eventually lead him to be completely blind. He fought it with all he could muster, feeling bitter about the world and all it contained.  

At age 22, it took a violent car accident to stop him from continuing to drive. He did not understand the desperate life he was pursuing, literally ready to die, until he participated in a Sterling Men’s Weekend in July 1998. He was 28 years old, and found his purpose.  

It was a new toolbox for him, equipped with tools that were functional, specific, and so well suited to him. Proctor joined a men’s team and it literally saved his life. He re-established a relationship with his estranged father, previously non-existent. He remembers precisely his moment in the Men’s Weekend at 3 a.m. when it all came together, for him and his father. 

He got what he came for at that moment in time. On the way home from the weekend he had a call to rekindle the relationship with his father that is in great standing today. Being on a men’s team gave him the courage to contact agencies, which lead to gainful employment and, in turn, allowed him to reach out and make additional contacts. This included the National Federation of the Blind, which lead him to eventually take courses at The Louisiana Center for the Blind to help him learn Braille, woodworking, mobility training, home management and other very specific and intense skills.

His men’s team held him accountable in spite of his bitterness.  e struggled, but found it was exactly what he needed. He realized he was accepted, and truly became the man he always wanted to be, and still is working toward that end. MDI not only kept him out of jail, but gave him an appreciation of his life, and helped bring him to be the powerful leader he is today. Proctor has now not given up! 

Today Proctor is the President of the NFB of Maine, an affiliate of the national organization. He is also the Event Manager of the New England Region of MDI. He has learned leadership. Every time that he has stepped up to leadership his life has improved.

In closing, the message Proctor wants to deliver to the men of MDI is that no matter what your disability is you can step up in your life and truly make a huge difference in men’s lives as well as the world! Don’t let whatever your disability is stop you to achieve your dreams or any of your goals in life. Live the life you want!

Eastern Canada  

2.9.6. Hessam G – My 1st Triathlon, 1st bike race, 2nd marathon

Last fall after completing my first ever marathon (which was my first race as well since high-school of any distance), a good friend of mine convinced me to register for the Houston Ironman in May 2014. 

I had a road bike and had cycled as part of my marathon training and had also picked up swimming to help with back pain. From December to April I trained. On average training was between 12-17 hours per week from beginning to end with some very long 8-hour workouts in April. The process was tough, but with the cold winter outside and little to do, long training sessions seemed like a good idea. When things got tough, I took a step back and laughed with my friend about the absurdities of the training, and we got through it with smiles on our faces. We also did plenty of yoga, which just felt terrific.

The day of the race was intense. At the starting line there were tears of joy that the training was over and fear in my heart as I was about to swim in a lake for the first time. My first triathlon, first bike race, second marathon and Ironman were all happening at once. The day was tough and my goal was ambitious – 12 hours in the hot Texas sun. I was lucky to have a knowledgeable coach who prepared me well. 

The day was a success. After 11 hours and 57 minutes I crossed the finish line in a full sprint, feeling good and with plenty of energy left to spare. Thanks really go out to my team, Redline, my friends, family and my partner. Without their support and patience and enthusiasm I would have quit at least a half dozen times.

2.9.7.  Ian Kennard – London Calling Community Service

On one evening in June, London Calling and two guests circled up at “My Sister’s Place,” a women’s shelter and support centre in downtown London.  (http://mysistersplacelondon.ca/)

Patrick Callon, the lead on this project, has donated his time and services along with Darcy DeCaluwe. They are creating a healing garden and walkway on the property for the women. We participated in the best tradition of men: demolishing something to make way for something new. For two hours we tore up 50 feet of concrete walkway – pounding, smashing, hauling, laughing. Good hard physical labor in the company of men. We also did a general cleanup of the entire property. 

The occasional woman would appear to observe. Several times I overheard them say how nice it was to have men to look at!

It was a great evening, completed with a powerful circle. The men of London Calling.

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