By Tatum Heath
I have an announcement to make. After a lot of thought and hard work, I am running. That’s right, I am running in this weekend’s Philadelphia Marathon.
More importantly, I am running to fight ALS. I am running for those who cannot. With every step I take in this race, I will be running to keep on fighting for those affected by this terrible disease and for those who lost their life to ALS and their families.
I am also running for Roger Kirk and for all of the other “Rogers” in the world.
Over the past 4 years, the Kirk family has become a second family to me. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to truly know Roger Kirk, but I have had the pleasure of being in the company of his wonderful family, whether that be in the memories made down at the shore, holidays or birthdays, or fun weekends spent in Philadelphia.
I was first introduced to Roger at the Greater Philadelphia Walk to Defeat ALS in 2014. By that time, his disease had progressed drastically. He was wheelchair bound and it was very difficult for him to communicate. My boyfriend Alex, Roger’s nephew, introduced me by saying, “This is Tatum, my girlfriend, and she went to Scranton too.” The conversation was very brief and casual, along the lines of “nice to finally meet you,” because, after all, Roger was very popular that day and everyone wanted to spend time with ‘Hot Rog.’
Sadly, that would be the first and the last time that I would meet Roger, as he passed away a few short months later in February of 2015. Although he is no longer with us, he still lives on through the stories, pictures, and memories shared amongst his family. I did not know Roger very well but I do know his wife, his children, brother and sisters, and the entire Kirk family, and they are an incredible, strong, loving, and honorable family that continues to fight the fight against ALS so one day, other families won’t have to lose their loved one to this terrible disease.
Now I am running the Philadelphia Marathon in Roger’s memory. When I tell most people I am training for a marathon, they usually tell me I am crazy and say something like “I could never do that, I can barely run one mile.” Well, they say running a marathon is only 25% physical and 75% mental. I think this can translate to Roger’s battle with ALS. This disease physically took over his body but from the stories I hear, it never took his spirit.
Despite going through this tragic event, the Kirk family continues to fight and live on Roger’s wishes in finding a cure for ALS and I am proud to be a part of this fight. mirAcLeS can happen!
Please join me by donating and supporting my efforts at https://www.crowdrise.com/tatum-heath---als-greater-philadelphia---philadelphia-marathon
I can’t wait to see you all at the finish line!