Last week, more than six months after I completed Ironman St. George, I crossed the finish line a second time.
My family and I visited Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks to dedicate one of the two Nintendo Fun Centers we fundraised leading up to my third Ironman. We chose Los Robles (along with Simi Valley Adventist Hospital) because my grandfather, grandmother and mom have all stayed there over the years. Unfortunately, my grandfather contracted the deadly MRSA virus following his heart surgery and was never able to shake it. We spent many days and nights at Los Robles and became friendly with several nurses and doctors in various parts of the hospital. Dedicating the Fun Center at Los Robles marked some closure for my parents, sister and I from grieving for my grandpa and some resentment we -- OK, I -- may have felt for having him taken from us unnecessarily.
I enjoyed meeting the nursing staff in the pediatric care unit and was especially relieved there were no kids having to spend their Thanksgiving holiday in the hospital. Seeing the nurses talk about how the kids literally fight over who gets to play the Nintendo while temporarily forgetting about their illness put a huge smile on my face. In that moment, I felt like all the miles of training didn't melt away or reside on an event website with a finish time and a medal. They formed into something far greater, through the help of so many folks who donated nearly a combined $12,000.
I'll remember the Nintendo Fun Center dedication ceremony as fondly as any Ironman finish. Finishing a race is fun and exhilarating. But the memory is just that. Powerful, but fleeting. Impossible to relive, though I try mightily. Rolling a Fun Center into a hospital ward lives on. That unit keeps giving and helping long after the race podium and stands are back on the moving van.
Thank you to those who have helped make kids lives better during their difficult moments.