ANDREW'S BOSTON MARATHON FUNDRAISER
In December of 2016, I lost my girlfriend to her lifelong battle with Cystic Fibrosis. Caitlin left behind a tremendous group of family and friends that have eased some of the grief. I owe it to them for getting me through those first few months. It was during this time that Caitlin’s best friend Jess, reached out to me about visiting Kenya and I knew that Caitlin would approve. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life and, more importantly, started my process of healing. It was also in Kenya that I started running again. I found myself waking up before dawn because I genuinely wanted to join the locals for their morning jog. It was the first time, in months, that I enjoyed getting out of bed. I felt re-animated. More good days followed and I slowly started to see how life has a way of keeping you in its current and moving you forward. Now, two years later, I am proud to not only be running my first marathon but the Boston Marathon for The Leo Project in honor of Caitlin O'Hara.
The Leo Project has purchased land and is in the process of building a 4,500 sq. foot resource center in Nanyuki, Kenya. We hope to open doors to the local community in June 2019. Please read more about the project here. All funds raised will support our efforts in Kenya.
Thank you very much and I hope to see many of you along the route on April 15th!
WHAT IS THE LEO PROJECT?
When Jess spoke at Caitlin's funeral, she promised that she would do something extraordinary. She promised that she would make her proud and she promised to keep her light and her spirit alive.
The Leo Project moves beyond the classroom and provides supportive services, creative outlets, and opportunities not traditionally available to vulnerable youth in Nanyuki, Kenya. The resource center will put paintbrushes in hands, keyboards beneath fingers, and encourage confident voices. We will support creativity and self-expression and foster an environment where kids can be kids. We will employ a full-time Kenyan administrator and social worker who will help us move away from “Band-Aid” solutions by providing sustainable support.
Caitlin longed to visit Jess there and meet the kids. To see, with her own eyes, the big cats, the elephants, and watch the equatorial sun rise up over Mt. Kenya. She dreamed of seeing the endless night sky, pinpricked with silvery stars. She was an adventurer at heart but she had cystic fibrosis, a genetic, progressive lung disease, and by her twenties, she could no longer stray too far from her medical team.
In February of 2014, her health plummeted. She was transferred by med-flight from Brigham & Women’s in Boston to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where she was listed for a lung transplant. The surgery was filled with uncertainty and side effects, but if successful – like so many were – it would provide her with the opportunity to do many of the things that, before this time, had never been an option. She would finally be able to travel to Africa.
While she was in Pittsburgh waiting for the “call” that a donor had become available, the thousands of miles between them felt more expansive than ever and she was desperate to be in constant communication with her. Jess started sharing the stories of the kids that she was spending her time with. Simba was one of them. Although he had never celebrated a birthday, he was a doe-eyed, self-proclaimed ten year old. She connected the two and they sent handwritten letters back and forth. They shared an affinity for tiny winged creatures and their correspondence often included an illustration or two. On June 20th, 2014, Caitlin emailed and said, “Can’t WAIT for Simba’s letter to arrive. Thinking about him and all your little kids a lot. And you smiling at them. It hurts my heart.”
For many tragic reasons, Caitlin had to wait 2.5 years for her transplant and by then, her chances of success were low. She did not survive.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Please donate in honor of Caitlin and in honor of the lives that will be changed through The Leo Project.
*The Leo Project is in the process of securing 501(c)(3) status and, in the meantime, the venerable Flying Kites is our fiscal sponsor. Donations to this campaign are fully tax-deductible. GoFundMe contributions are processed via PayPal Giving and, upon donation, you will receive a tax-deductible receipt.