My dear friend Kristen is part of an amazing organization called Ellie’s Run for Africa. In its seventh year, the race is next weekend. This year’s race is a bit different for Kristen because this year Kristen is a mama.
Don’t you love her?
Learn more about this awesome event and organization from Kristen herself (questions from me). I love Kristen’s heart and dedication – I think she will inspire you. She inspires me.
What is Ellie’s Run and when is it?
Ellie’s Run is a 5K race and family fun day that raises funds for schools and students in Africa. This year, it will take place on May 21 at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
What’s really unique about this race is that it was founded by a 10-year-old Nashville girl, Ellie, in 2004. Ellie tells people that what motivated her to act was pictures of a mom in Africa who couldn’t feed her children. She says the kids’ skin looked so tight that she thought it would break their bones. Now that’s a mental image if I’ve ever heard/seen one.
Ellie is now 17 and has been to Africa four times.
What are some of the highlights of the event?
Certainly, the 5K takes center stage at the event. But, part of Ellie’s dream was to create a carnival-like atmosphere. So, you’ll find inflatable games, face-painting, African food, African dancing & drumming and other activities for parents and children to enjoy and from which to learn about life in Africa.
This year, we are welcoming the founder of New Dawn Educational Center – a school located in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, that receives funding from Ellie’s Run. She will join us to help host the event.
Do you have to live in Nashville to support Ellie’s Run?
No. In fact, I’ve had people donate from California, Minnesota, North Carolina – even England! We open up the race beyond the event through our Heroes fundraising program, where people commit to raising funds to help kids go to school. Just $25 makes a HUGE difference.
You traveled to Africa to see the fruits of Ellie’s Run. What did you take away from that experience?
The real answer to this is that Africa – specifically, Kenya – took away a little bit of my heart. We spent most of our time in a slum called Kibera where people live in 10′ X 10′ tin shacks, walk in sewage as a way of life and play in soccer fields full of garbage. Likely, any given individual is an orphan, living with HIV/AIDS, starving, a prostitute, out of work or homeless – or all of those combined.
Yet, they rejoice in God stronger than I think I ever will because I am surrounded by a warm home, clothes, grocery stores – not to mention the luxuries we have here. Try as I might, I can’t see beyond all that I have to really put my faith and trust in Christ the way that they can. Watching their faith was humbling.
In short, I have a connection to Africa that gives me chills when I think about it.
You have been involved with Ellie’s Run for 7 years. How are things different this year now that you are a mom?
I remember Ellie’s mom, Barbara, tell me several years ago that people often ask her how she was able to support her child in such a huge, time-consuming endeavor. Her response was simple: how do you not support your child when they are following what God is calling them to?
My daughter is only three months old, so, I admit, I spend more time wondering if she’ll sleep through the night than what she’ll do as a teen, but I can only pray I will adopt Barbara’s open attitude in the event my little one approaches me with such a bold request one day. Looking at an event this year that was started by a little girl, and then looking at my little girl will, I think, put all of it in perspective.
What is your advice for moms of young children who want to be involved in charitable work?
Again, mine is so young. But what I have seen in Ellie’s family is a crew of four kids who are all at once totally normal teens AND kids who look beyond themselves. From watching this family, who all went to Africa with me, I would encourage moms to listen to their kids’ hearts and then celebrate – as a family and especially among siblings – each others’ hopes, desires and giftings.