June 2012

The 2012 Runyon 5K

Why I’m Running

Some basic journalistic, who, what, where, when and why. The why is the most important part of this event so I’ll keep the others short.

Who: Me (And around 4,000 new friends.)

What: The Runyon 5K (May not be the NYC Marathon but the Where and the Why make it special.)

Where: Yankee freakin’ Stadium! NYC. (It’s really just Yankee Stadium. I added the “freakin'” part and the exclamation point. More on the where below.)

When: August 12th, 2012 (Ahhh… running in August.)

Why: For Sidney O Risener. There’s no way to do this man’s life justice in this space but bear with me for a second. The highlights that are important to this story are…

He lived through the Great Depression. Sidney O Risener was born in 1920 and as boy, like so many at that time, he lived through some really hard times. And also like many at that time, it taught him to be a hard-working, self sufficient man. The strength he would need to be a member of the Greatest Generation.

Sidney Risener – Bottom Row, 2nd from Left

He was a veteran of two wars. As a young man, he was sent to the Pacific during WWII.  He returned to the Pacific a few years later and fought in Korea. He never talked to his family about the things he saw and the hell he lived through. They only glimpsed shadows of it from the nightmares. But over time, the nightmares slowly faded and in spite of or maybe because of the pain of those memories, he remained a happy, outgoing and friendly man.

He worked hard. He supported his family by working in a factory for 35 years doing difficult and at times dangerous work. During his years there he survived two explosions. One of those explosions killed several of his friends and coworkers and gave him some pretty severe burns. But tired, sick, or injured, he had a family to support so he laced ’em up and went back to work.

Sidney O Risener and His Family

He was a family man. Sidney O Risener loved and took care of his wife Ruby and his two children. He spent time with them and took them on family vacations to the mountains and to the Gulf. Later on when grandchildren entered the picture, he did the same with them. And he played catch in the yard with a pair of old baseball mitts, took them fishing on the river and took them to football games in the Fall.

He retired and enjoyed a… This is the one that got cut way too damn short. The one he deserved. He had big plans for his retirement. More time for fishing on the river and spending time with his family and friends. More time with a brand new grandson and a well deserved rest after a sometimes challenging life. But those plans were immediately thrown off track.

The very week after he retired, he went to the doctor. He hadn’t been feeling well but the excitement of the retirement had overshadowed concerns about his health. The news was not good. He was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Treatments started and trips to the hospital were frequent. A strong, vital, self sufficient man began to wither away. The treatments didn’t stop the cancer and they wreaked havoc on his body and his mind. As they say, the cure is worse than the disease. Near the end, through the pain and the medication, he started reliving some of the hell he went through during the war. Family members sat by his bedside and did the best they could to comfort him. After a miserable two years, he lost the battle. He fought and lived through so much. But this one he couldn’t win.

Sidney O Risener and Family

And here’s the connection. The Runyon 5K is a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. I’m running this race to honor my grandfather, Sidney O Risener. (That’s me and my brother with my mom and grandparents on the left.) And in the process I’ll be helping  raise money for research that will one day end this disease. Last year’s run raised over $730,000. But this may involve you and someone you love, too. And I’m not just talking about a donation.

We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way. And for every name, there’s a story. I want to honor as many of those names as possible so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a list. Maybe a scroll. I’m still working that out. If you give me the name or names of people in your life who have been affected by cancer and make a donation to sponsor my run, I’ll put your name and the name of a loved one who has been affected on the scroll. I’m going to carry that list with me as I the run the race through Yankee Stadium. Whatever amount you want or can afford and as many names as you’d like.

You can donate directly to me or you can visit  My personal Runyon 5K page and donate there. Then just give me the names of the loved ones you would like to honor. There are more links and info below.

Okay, I’ve got to get back to training now. The course is a little crazy but cool. Winding through the concourse of the stadium, up and down stairs, out on the field for a couple of laps around the warning track, up ramps and down ramps and through the Hall of Champions. Can’t wait. Thanks for any support you give, be it moral, financial or both.

The Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium 

My Personal Runyon 5K Page

The History of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

Pensacola FL, Home of the Blue Angels
(image by Brian L Butler)

Men in Uniform

So here’s a thing that can turn your hair gray. Daughters hitting dating age. And here’s a thing that can make that gray hair fall out. Daughters hitting dating age in a Navy town. I knew this time was coming. I knew that one day I’d have to worry about the possibility of them falling in love and heading off to Guam or Okinawa or god knows where with some yahoo in a uniform.

(And I say that with all due respect to our fine men and women in the armed services. Love you and what you do. Dead serious. But these are my little girls and my irrational, overblown fears we’re talking about.)

The thing is, until this year, some yahoo in a uniform meant just one of the thousands of sailors on base or, what was more frightening, a fly-boy, Maverick wanna-be, getting his start in the “Cradle of Naval Aviation”. Some pilot with a need for speed putting my daughter on the back of his motorcycle and heading to the beach for a game of slow motion volleyball before either breaking her heart or capturing it and taking her with him, bouncing around the country and the world, putting me and Julie in a positon where we rarely see her or the grandki… OK. Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

But Pensacola girls flying off with Navy and Marine pilots is the stuff of legend around here. Sometimes it works out beautifully. Sometimes not so much. Just like all relationships. But there are special challenges to being a military spouse. That’s not the point here though.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (image by Brian L Butler)

The point is this. Now there’s a new game in town. Some yahoo in a uniform has turned into some Wahoo in a uniform. The Cincinnati Reds have a Double A baseball team now. The Pensacola Blue Wahoos started playing this Spring. They’re a big hit with the fans and I think it’s pretty darn cool myself. I’ve been to a lot of games already. But…

All I keep hearing from my daughters and their friends is how cute these young, athletic guys are. Most of these girls don’t know the difference between a sac fly and a horse fly but they clamor to get autographs and photos with the guys and instantly post them to facebook or instagram and get “ooohs” and “ahhhs” and “oh my he’s cutes” from their friends. Add this to my Bull Durham visions of life in the minor leagues and well, there goes my hair again.

And there’s no Wahoo more sought after  than relief pitcher Donnie Joseph. Young, tall, fit, professional athlete with a big glowing smile. There’s a sigh in the voice and the eyelids flutter when they say his name.

From what I’ve gathered, he seems like a good guy. Very good pitcher, very religious, always smiling and spends time after every game signing autographs and taking pictures with his fans, like the one below with my daughter. Dare I say Tebowesque. What’s not to like. But again, these are my little girls and my irrational, overblown fears we’re talking about. Military spouse is hard. But I think pro athlete spouse would be even harder.

Donnie Joseph and My Daughter

I know I still have a few years before I really need to worry about these things and I know I shouldn’t even actually be worried. Julie and I should just do the best we can and stay rational and hope the girls make good decisions. The more I think about it, there are definitely worse choices out there than an athlete or a service member. God I hope they stay away from TV people.

And then there’s this. Literally as I’m writing this, I hear that Donnie Joseph has been called up to the Red’s Triple A team in Louisville. Somebody else’s dad will have to worry about that particular baseballer. :-)

Brian L Butler


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