Will You Run with Me?
I was being interviewed for the Quality Coaching Collective podcast by my friend Martin Reader (Canadian Beach Volleyball Olympian) a few weeks back and he asked me a powerful question.  “Can you share a story that really captures why you love what you do?”  I didn’t hesitate because the story I’m about to share, I’ve told in some form or another hundreds of times over the past 25 years. But, it’s the outcome of me telling it this time, that should keep you reading on.

As many of you know, my first real job out of college was teaching and coaching at an all-boys school on the lower east side of NYC. But, during the summers, I helped direct a camp for children with cancer, known as Happiness is Camping.  In fact, it was at that camp that I asked Kerry to marry me in front of all the campers (thank God she said "Yes!")...but I’ll save that story for another time.

Each Friday was “transfer” day. Any campers that needed to return home or to the hospital during our 8 weeks, typically did so on Fridays. But similarly - any new campers would arrive on the same bus that would soon be turning around. As sad as many campers were to be leaving (and us to see them go), the excitement of new campers arriving was palatable. As Director, it was sort of my job to stand at the door as new campers came off and give them as warm a welcome as possible - and at this point - I knew many of them from previous summers. But, I was not expecting it when this new young girl grabbed me by the hand as she excitedly exited the bus - and feigned “asking”, “Will you run with me?” because before I knew it, we were off across the field in nearly a full sprint. I knew I was going to like Ivonne right away. She was full of joy, she absolutely loved to play and she had a moxy about her that was just uncanny.

During the winters, to stay connected to the campers - many of whom stated that they “literally lived” for the camp, we would do special outings. One cold January day, we met at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC and took a bus across to New Jersey to the closest thing we could find to a ski mountain. It was an inspiring thing to behold watching one-legged children who had lost their limbs to cancer, using specially designed ski poles to maneuver down the mountain on just one ski. 
Modern day adaptive skiing - similar to what I describe above.
But, I’ll never forget riding the ski lift to the top of the mountain with Ivonne. “I want to go straight to the top,” she said. “No bunny hill for me!” Hailing from the South Bronx, Ivonne was fearless and tough for a lot of reasons. But it was her joy, her optimism and her outlook that stood out this day. As we hopped off the lift, we stood together soaking everything in. In the very far distance on this unusually clear, crisp day - was the NYC skyline and in the other direction - the Poconos of Eastern, PA. 
And then - just like that - she said it. “I can’t believe it. It’s so beautiful.”   I paused and almost didn’t reply because I really wasn’t sure what to say. “Ivonne. I don’t understand....You’re right.... It is beautiful. But, but...how can you tell? You’re blind.”  She smiled and calmly said - “I don’t need to “see it” to see it. I can just tell”.   And that moment changed my life in a lot of ways. Cancer had taken both of Ivonne’s eyes when she was less than 2 years old, but it didn’t take her spirit. Nothing before and nothing since has impacted my perspective as much as that child’s statement.

But - here’s where my new version of the story now has to change.  That was 1992. Twenty-six years ago. Just before email, and wayyyyy before social media. After that summer, Kerry and I moved to Seattle for five years and we just fell out of touch with lots of folks.  But, for some reason, after I finished the podcast with Martin I just started to do some google searches. However, I couldn’t remember Ivonne’s last name for the life of me and wasn’t confident that I was even spelling her first name correctly.  But, luck and amazing karma were on my side. An image flashed alongside one of the searches and I knew right away that I had found her. And immediately tears came to my eyes as I remembered her asking “Will you run with me?” 

Ivonne Mosquera, fluent in four languages is a graduate of Stanford University, went on to be an American record holder in four distances and she represented the United States as a 1500 meter Paralympian in Rio in 2016.  She apparently kept running after I had met her!
Ivonne during training
I immediately found and connected with her on Facebook, she got back to me within minutes and we spoke just before Christmas. What a gift that was! 26 years is a long time and lots took place of course for her to reach the Paralympic level. But, as I shared with Martin and I shared with Ivonne, it was her outlook on life that was so transformative for me. I am rekindled to know that the story I’ve been sharing all these years, had an outcome as positive as hers. Running does matter. Playing does matter. Sports absolutely matter. They help us build confidence and if done right - define our character and set us on a path to do literally anything we want to do, regardless of the obstacles life throws at us. Just ask Ivonne!

Steve Boyle
Founder/Director of 2-4-1 Sports
Advisory Board Chair of the National Association of Physical Literacy
We are live - Summer 2018!
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Week 1: June 25 - 29
Week 2: July 2-6

July 16-20
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Watch Ivonne Mosquera teach high school students how to guide her running the way she did 2-4-1 Sports founder Steve Boyle over 25 years ago.
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