I think I can safely speak for all of us on #TeamRyder when I say that we are just ordinary people who have survived extraordinary circumstances, and we were brought together to live out a pretty amazing weekend that will be stamped on our hearts and in our minds forever. And I think it’s also safe to say we’re all having a difficult time using words to express exactly what we’ve experienced over the last few weeks… but we’re all doing our best, so here’s my take, in several installments.
For those of you who are just joining us, allow me to share a little basic background information:
Ryder’s name means “Mounted Warrior” and his battle for survival started long before he was born. We had three miscarriage, losing four babies, before getting pregnant with him (and suffered another loss between Ryder and Evan). Two of those miscarriages were caused by a rare and dangerous condition that, if left undetected, could have killed me. Then, at 30 weeks pregnant with Ryder, we moved from California to Illinois where I contracted West Nile Virus and we feared we’d lose him too. By the grace of God, he was born completely healthy, and has been active and incredibly strong his entire life.But nearly two years ago, at the age of six, he and his little brother Evan caught a common cold that would change our lives forever. Ryder’s immune system attacked his body instead of the virus, damaging his spinal cord and shutting off the signal to his right arm, literally overnight. (If you’d like more detail, start here.)Like any true warrior, he was determined to get back to “normal” as soon as humanly possible. We started physical therapy during our week long stay in the hospital, and within a week of his release he had already taught himself how to write left-handed. It wasn’t long before he regained some strength in his core and his grip, which meant he could ride his bike. Almost every day, we heard “I think I want to try <insert something daring here> today!” And in an effort to keep him from throwing himself a pity party we said “Ok, buddy… let’s give it a shot!” He worked really hard, and managed to accomplish just about everything he set his mind on.Fast forward almost two years, and he still has very limited use of his right arm. But he’s an extraordinary boy living an ordinary life – a fact that we celebrate because “normal and boring” doesn’t come naturally in our family. He plays soccer, does gymnastics, runs, rides, and wrestles like any other normal kid. Then one day he discovered obstacle course racing on TV, and on a whim, Ryan and I decided to sign the boys up for a Spartan Kids race. The soonest, closest one was in Tahoe, so that’s the one we chose. A few days later, I watched a video on the Spartan Race Facebook page featuring a one-armed military veteran climbing a rope.
Little did I know, leaving an innocent comment about being excited to show the video to Ryder would kick off a series of events no one could have predicted. (Please take the time to read about some of that here.)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” [Isaiah 55:8]
Over the course of a few weeks, the characters in our mind-blowing story found out Ryder was signed up for the Kids’ Race and decided they wanted to come cheer him on. As plans were being solidified, they decided they didn’t want to come all the way to Tahoe just to watch a 1/2 mile scramble. They wanted to do the Sprint too. And they wanted Ryder to do it with them.
And suddenly, #TeamRyder was formed. The team consists of Shannon Silcox, a personal trainer and the race volunteer who posted the video above; Jonathan Lopez, the wounded veteran and Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) athlete featured in the video, and his wife Patricia; Jeff Farmer, the veteran and OEW athlete who alerted Jonathan to my comment; Norbie Lara, OEW athlete and the wounded veteran who visited us at home, and his wife Priscilla; Brian Clarke, an OEW Ambassador; and Zoe the Wonder Dog, Jonathan’s faithful companion. We were also blessed by my parents, who came along for moral support, and to hang out with Evan while we raced on Sunday.
Stay tuned to see how it all came together…