Shaun Evans, the Galway dad who ran cross country with his son, Shamus, and his family in the summer of 2015, thinks grit is a big reason they could make the trek.
“When he was in first grade, he came up with a big idea,” Evans told an assembly at Glendaal today as he flashed a picture of his son. “He uses a wheelchair but I want you to notice something else, his smile.”
His son, diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a young child, was never hampered by his condition. He said his son would do what other little boys do: play baseball, ride horses, plant a garden, mow the lawn on a tractor, play piano, bake and participate in Boy Scouts. “It took a lot of grit, to do these things even though he was a kid who can’t move like you do,” he said.
The big idea? He wanted to run with his father, who was an avid marathon runner in the area. He participated in area marathons and runs, with his father pushing him in a wheelchair. They first conquered a four-mile run in Saratoga Springs. They went on to win the six-hour Sweltering Summer Ultra in Pittsfield, logging 45 miles during the six hours. Shamus suggested that they run across the United States, a run of 3,200 miles – 60 miles a day for 60 days.
“He had a way of convincing the rest of us to go along with his ideas,” said Evans, who noted that the US run would take 60 days during the summer. “He persisted. He showed real grit as he convinced us to do this.”
He’d have to take time off from work and the family would have to save for the costs of such a venture, through 15 states from Seattle to New York City. Shamus also wanted to deliver wheelchairs to others in each state they passed through – they ended up providing 35 wheelchair during the cross country run.
He said Shamus and his brother, Simon, held a lemonade and cookie stand in their driveway for many days to raise money for the trip. They even sold their cookies through a few local stores.
“They stayed out there for 3, 4, 5 hours a day, in the hot sun, and really showed grit to raise money for our trip,” said Evans. He said they raised $10,000 through their ventures.
Evans said he knew he’d have to prepare for such a long run. He woke every day and ran 26 miles on a machine before going to work. He’d run at lunch and again in the evening after work. “Shamus’s goal became our goal,” he said. During the race, he said he would eat 15,000 calories a day to keep his stamina up.
They worked with Ainsley’s Angels to distribute the wheelchairs in every state they passed through. The group’s mission: “In addition to ensuring everyone can experience endurance events, Ainsley’s Angels of America aims to build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life. Serving as advocates to providing education and participating as active members in local communities, we believe everyone deserves to be included.”
His advice to Glendaal students? “Set a goal. Dream big. Believe. Stay positive. Have grit. Do it again.”
Evans and Shamus, who just turned 14, followed the Mississippi River from north to south in 2017. This summer, they plan to run from home in Galway to Niagara Falls. They may trek the entire east coast next summer.
Principal Thomas Eagan noted the number students wearing “Power of Yet” red shirts at the assembly. “It takes hard work…but we aren’t there yet. That’s where that came from.”
He noted that the shirts stem from Glendaal’s theme for the year: Cardinals “Got Grit.” “There are many ways you can define grit,” said Eagan. “That’s why I wanted them to hear from Shaun, who with his son really show a lot of grit to get something done!”
Here are a few photos from today’s assembly and presentation: