Ilan-a-thon is all about the colors! Well, not really, it's all about the people, but the vibrant colored t-shirts individuals and families wear tell an important story -- one I especially noticed in this year's 2016 Ilan-a-thon in June. It's really no wonder that the colored t-shirts hold a special place in my heart. As an Ilan-a-thon volunteer three years in, one of my main tasks is to sort and organize all of the t-shirts and swag bags prior to the race. While this is no easy feat, it's also a task I relish performing and here's why.
My desire to contribute toward the Ilan-a-thon originally grew from the very brief, but significant experience I had with baby Ilan at the Betzers home in Jersey City in 2011. I held him in my arms and softly talked to him. I felt connected instantly. For anyone who met little Ilan, you know what I am talking about. Just one brief encounter with him was all it took. You were hooked…..hooked into knowing that there was something special there.
Fast forward to two years later and the first Ilan-a-thon event where my desire to do more evolved beyond just little Ilan. This is where those colors come into play. The colored t-shirts allow everyone participating to see who this race is really about. The families who are impacted by PBD wear one color, while participants (those who simply want to contribute to the cause and participate in the race) wear another color. Now, what's so meaningful here is that the appreciation for this cause is viewed through two sets of eyes. Participants can easily spot all of the amazing and courageous families by their color and really appreciate the impact and the scope of their contributions. On the other side, families can also spot that same color and connect with other families who have similar experiences. Additionally, all families can easily spot the participants' color and understand the wide-reaching outcome of this fantastic cause.
Now, the final color I purposely leave for last and that's not to underplay the work that I and the other volunteers do to help prepare for this event. It's because volunteers are there to help, to keep things moving, to do what needs to be done for the greater good. While our story too is important, it's unassuming, like our t-shirt color - gray. You see, we prefer for the spotlight to be on the families and the participants. They are the heroes in this cause and we step aside so their colors shine. We do this because that's what being a volunteer means. We prefer the spotlight to be on the beautiful children born with PBD, the families impacted by this devastating disease, and the participants who want to make a difference. It's how we like it.