NCBF BLOG

2016 in Review with NCBF

As I was sitting here trying to organize my thoughts and compile the list of items I wanted to include in the year end review, I realized the magnitude of support my family and the foundation have received since 2012.  Over the last 4 years, the foundation has amassed a large group of GREAT volunteers and support from individuals and businesses throughout the community.  This support has allowed NCBF the ability to donate over $161,000 back to the community through our projects, donations, and Days of Greatness outreach. NCBF’s board and volunteers come from all different walks of life but are united in the cause of service to others.  As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, I thought it only fitting to start with a quote from a GREAT man and community organizer.

“Everybody can be GREAT…. Because anybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”  - Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote, to me, symbolizes what our team is about – GREATNESS through service to others. Individuals from all walks of life joining together to make a difference in the lives of others. 

In 2016, NCBF moved forward in big ways adding new members to our board and various committees, a re-invented website, the kick off of a new fundraiser. We began the year with our feet running (yes, literally) planning our first 5K!   We hosted our 3rd golf tournament, our 5th fun day, broke ground on the Winfield Baseball Field, sent four running teams to Ragnar Relay Series which included a new partnership with that organization, held a fundraiser at Chick Fil-A, expanded our Holi-Days of Greatness outreach, attended various community events, and much more! 

2016 began with some incredible upgrades to our website.  It was long overdue as we had outgrown our website and the former format couldn’t keep up with the web traffic, merchandise sales, or give us the ability to easily expand and update.  The web designer graciously donated his time to recreate our site (wow, thank you just doesn’t say enough) thus allowing us to put that money back into the community in big ways!  With our new and updated website, it gives us GREATer control over the content, allows us to continue to grow as a foundation, and it can be updated much easier.  If you haven’t checked it out… go do that today at www.nathanchrisbaker.com!

Current Project

In 2016, we continued to work with the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks on the funding of the baseball field in the Winfield Community.  The site is directly across from Winfield Elementary School. To date we have donated $15,000 to the project and a commitment of an additional $15,000 in the future.   In 2016, hundreds of thousands of yards of top soil was brought in, the drainage was installed and the field was leveled. CCDRP continues to work with the Winfield Recreation Council on the details of this field and the timeframe for completion and we are extremely excited to hear the first – play ball!

NCBF is continuously searching for new and exciting community projects that we can be involved in. If you know of a project or location where NCBF can partner or assist the community in GREAT ways – visit our website and complete the application for community projects in the What We Do section.

Days of Greatness (D.O.G.)

On a more personal level, NCBF volunteers continued to reach members of the community through our Days of Greatness.  As a foundation, we love our large projects that impact the community but feel strongly in the personal connections made with those in need through our DOG. As a family, the Bakers and Fulmers were truly touched by the kindness and love received from others in the days, weeks, months, and years since Nate’s passing.  That kindness and love has inspired us to do the same for others struggling through life tragedies.  Thus began a chain of paying it forward that continues with each small act of kindness through our Days of Greatness.  This committee takes nominations from the community through our website and creates a Day of Greatness for those in need.   Each day is personalized for that family and is designed to give them a day together without worrying about cost or logistics.  It’s simply a day to spend together and forget about the worries that they deal with on a regular basis.   Past recipients have been battling illnesses, lost a loved one, or a family dealing with a hardship.  

A large part of DOG is our Holi-Days of Greatness - we go ALL OUT at Christmas time. Christmas 2016 brought us nominations for 12 families in need of some Christmas cheer.  We decorated a family’s home and provided them with a Christmas tree, provided numerous drop and run baskets - a few gifts, some NCBF merchandise, and other goodies are dropped on the doorstep in order to bring them a bit of cheer.  This is something small but it could mean so much to those that receive the surprise.  This past Christmas, we adopted two families and provided them with their entire Christmas. Our team went shopping and purchased items from their wish list, wrapped he gifts and delivered them in time for Santa Claus. We even checked the lists twice! This year we were able to help a record number of families through the Holi-Days of Greatness.  The goal is to provide the nominated family a bit of cheer for the holidays.  It is our hope that each of the families we adopt will find a way to Go Out and Be Great and pay it forward in the future.    It is always GREAT to see the face of someone we have helped attending or volunteering at one of our events and assisting us in making an impact in the community.

We are already working on our first Day of Greatness for 2017.  If you know a family that is in need, please contact us through our website and nominate them.  Greatness has to begin with you.  

Applications for a Day Of Greatness can be found on our website by clicking here.

EVENTS:

The GREAT 5k

In May, the 1st annual Great 5k was held in Westminster, MD.  We approached this first race with nervous excitement as we jumped into new territory with planning our first race.  NCBF strives to make each of our events GREAT so our goal was to host 200 runners in our first year, knowing that the average race typically registers 100 to 150 runners.  We are beyond thrilled to share that with the help and support of the community, businesses, and the Great 5k committee, the race SOLD OUT at 400 runners.  Wow!  It was a cold and blustery day, but everyone had a GREAT time and the foundation was able to raise money to support our community involvement and projects.   

Planning is already underway for the 2nd Annual Great 5k.  It will be held in Westminster on June 11th, 2017.  We are prepared to double the number of runners this year and make this one of the premiere races in the area. Stay tuned for details to be released soon!

NCBF Golf Tournament

On June 24, 2016 we hosted our 3rd Annual NCB Golf Tournament at Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, MD.  As always this event was well attended and hosted a total of 132 golfers.  Although the weather started out a little rocky, the skies cleared and everyone had a GREAT day.  We are thankful for a great group of golfers and volunteers that braved the rain and waited on the sunshine to make an amazing day!  This is our largest fundraiser of the year and is always successful because of the generous donations of all of our sponsors. All of these fundraisers support the Go Out Be Great mission and each dollar goes right back into the community we serve!  None of this would be possible without the support of sponsors such as Corridor Mortgage who headlined the event as the Title Sponsor. Linda Freeman and Corridor Mortgage continue to support NCBF each year at this event and we are so thankful for that support.

Mark your calendar because the golf committee is already busy planning for the 4th annual golf tournament set for June 23rd, 2017. Stay tuned for more details.

FUN DAY

In September we held our 5th annual Fun Day at Hoppers Kid Zone which was presented by Hoppers KidZone & Rental Solutions.  Again this year we took over the entire parking lot with moon bounces, fire trucks, police vehicles, carnival games, and vendor booths.  It was a GREAT day of family fun and our longest fundraising event proved to be very successful.  This event was established in 2012 by friends and family of Justin and Katie.  The goal, then, was solely to raise money for the Mechanicsville E.S. playground.  We had no idea, at the time, that this would become an annual event that now continues to raise money for our various projects!   Yes, it’s a lot of work for the committee but the smiles on the faces at the end of the day make the work worthwhile.  The Fun Day committee is the largest committee we have inside the foundation.  It has so many moving parts.  Thank you so much to the committee, the volunteers, the sponsors, to the business for their silent auction donations, and the community for making this event what it is. We would be remiss if we did not recognize St. Johns Properties and the many businesses at Eldersburg Exchange Shopping Center for their support and willingness allow us to use the parking lot for this annual event.   

Planning will begin in the spring for the 6th annual Fun Day which will occur in September 2017 so stay tuned!!! 

The above events make up NCBF’s three largest fundraisers each year.  Each event has a committee designated to its preparation and execution.  Without the volunteers on the committees and our volunteers at each event, these fundraisers would not be possible.  We can’t thank each of you who volunteer your time and energy enough for all of your tireless work.

Community Involvement:

It seems these days you can’t leave the house without seeing a “Go Out. Be Great.” shirt or car magnet along your travels.  Our supporters seem to be EVERYWHERE – from Hawaii to Massachusetts, you can find GOBG apparel. We are humbled by this ongoing support and are beyond GREATful that so many continue to keep Nathan’s legacy and memory alive through action.   As we began thinking about how many shirts we see around the community we were left curious… so we sat down and ran the numbers. Would you believe we sold over 1100 shirts, sweatshirts, ¼ zips, Team Nate shirts, and other apparel in 2016?  That is an absolutely staggering number for a foundation of our size.  These items are purchased through our website and locally in Maryland at A La Mode Boutique. A La Mode Boutique has been a supporter of NCBF from day one and has carried our apparel in their stores since 2014. They sold over $6,000 in merchandise in 2016 and donate back 100% of the proceeds! We thank A La Mode for the continued commitment to NCBF and we encourage our local supporters to visit one of their two locations in Sykesville or Ellicott City, Maryland.  To you, our supporters, you are amazing!  Thank you for supporting NCBF and spreading GREATNESS through action. Stay tuned for our spring release of new merchandise in April!

This year we attended numerous community functions, races, and festivals to spread the word about NCBF.  We attended and supported community functions such as the Sykesville Harvest Festival, Sykesville Farmers Market, the Howard County Police Pace, Pathfinders Run for Autism, promoted the Go Out. Be Great. Fitness Challenge, and so much more.  In 2016, GOBG supporters ran numerous races and participated in events all over the country.  It is humbling to attend events and see our apparel walking and running around. 

In addition to our annual fundraisers, the NCBF has developed a partnership with Ragnar Relays. This is the first partnership of its type for NCBF.  For three years, Team Nate has run various Ragnar races.  In 2016, we took 4 teams to Ragnar Trail in Richmond, VA and at the finish line Ragnar took notice of our matching shirts and reached out to us.  They asked us who we were and what we do and then briefly shared NCBF’s message with others at the finish line. It was an emotional reminder to the Team Nate runners of why they were running – to spread NCBF’s message or GREATNESS and community.  After the race, Ragnar reached out to us to form a partnership that will benefit the foundation and Ragnar by providing opportunities to get our messages out, raise social awareness, and raise money together thus making Ragnar a profitable event for The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation as well as inspiring our runners to find their inner GREATNESS.  In April of 2017, we will be sending 70+ runners to Richmond to race for Team Nate in the Ragnar Trail Relay!  If you are interested in being involved in future Ragnar races with Team Nate you may email us at gobgragnar@gmail.com.  We are thrilled and looking forward to a long and meaningful partnership with Ragnar Relays.

As we look back on 2016, we are so grateful for the support of so many people.  Without the support of the community and local businesses in the Carroll County and Howard County area, we could not continue to be as successful at giving back to a community that has given so much to us. We offer a very special thank you to our ongoing partnerships that support NCBF in every event throughout the year.  Year after year these organizations step up, without fail.  These businesses and organizations are Hoppers Kidzone, A La Mode Boutique, Denise Tuttle Designs, Rental Solutions, Ragnar Trail Relays, UnWined Candles, and The Ravens Nest #14 out of Carroll County.   Your support and the support of all of our event sponsors allows us to reach out and touch the lives of so many – we are forever grateful. This support has helped us impact individuals and communities and will continue as we assist in building our Field of Dreams in the Winfield Community of Carroll County.

Thank you all so much for your support and we cannot wait to be GREAT in 2017.

Go Out Be Great

Jason Baker

President

 

Because life can be beautiful...

So it's been awhile since I've put my fingers to a keyboard to write.  Quite often, I have so much I want to say but haven't been able to formulate my thoughts into anything that would make sense on paper.  I find myself in a stage of grief that I'm still trying to navigate myself.  I find myself in a phase of life that I'm not sure how much to share and how much not to share. But today, I woke so uneasy and so unsettled.  So I spent some quiet time with God, asking that He remind me of the strength and Hope He knows I have, and now I will sit in the calm and quiet and write before this day begins.  

Life has changed a lot over the last few years. A couple weeks ago I let the iPhone playlist just shuffle at random.  Admittedly, most days I cannot listen to songs that carried me through the initial months of losing Nate.  I cannot listen to songs from his service or from the slideshow that played before his service. I hear them and can be taken instantly into that very broken and shattered pain that I felt almost 4.5 years ago.  Most days it just hurts too much still so usually with the first note of one of these songs I have already hit next on the playlist.   But a few weeks ago, I was able to stop and really listen again and take them in. It was a big moment for me. I found myself on a journey of self-reflection rather than in that dark and heavy place I remember.  It was as if I was being guided through my journey from the outside looking in and reflecting back and in those moments I realized just how far we have come.  We’ve come from heavy sadness where tears fell daily, through anger and frustration with God and the world, and now to a place where we are finding joy again.  The emotions come and go, yes, I still have heavy days but they aren’t as often as they used to be.  We could have left ourselves stuck in that heavy place but instead we fought with every ounce of energy our souls would offer to be in THE light and not under it. 

This week I have felt the joy of Christmas coming.  I have seen the wonder in a child's eyes.  I have watched Drew & Kaylee’s excitement grow.  I have also looked at a stocking with Nate’s name that hangs and will not be filled.   An honest reminder of our reality that there is pain but we can have joy too.  I have sat many evenings and just stared at the fireplace where his stocking hangs in the center, as our middle child, directly under his cross.  I have prayed and wondered if we are doing the right thing by continuing to hang his stocking.  But the reality is that I cannot put it away.  I cannot put him away. 

Nathan Chris Baker entered our world on December 23, 2006.   Today, December 23, 2016, Nate would be 10.   Ten... how does a momma's mind wrap herself around that idea that my child would be 10.   Nathan lived on earth with us for 5.5 years.  The last birthday we celebrated with Nate on earth was his 5th birthday.   He was so excited for his 5th...  you know 5 means one whole hand of fingers you get to hold up and smile the proudest smile?  When I think of Nate and I still see my 5 year old stubborn yet innocent little boy.  What would 10 look like for Nate?  How tall would he be?  What would he be like, who would his friends be, would we have a big party, would we go to his favorite dinner spot, what gifts would he be asking for?  We don’t have those days with him.  We watch our other children grow and it leaves us longing for those days with Nate.   His 10th birthday....  that means he's been in Heaven almost as long as he was with us on Earth.   I just can't even wrap my brain around the last four years without him let alone a lifetime to come without him.  My heart turns and weeps inside my chest. 

The journey of grief, and missing your child, just doesn’t get easier.  It doesn’t go away… ever.  It changes.  I’ve said it before, the journey is winding.  Some days I feel like a mess in this journey as we climb from the ashes.  Some days I feel like it will, somehow, make sense one day.  I know that we don't always like the journey but I do know that we will keep walking it with our heads held high in hope.  I know that we wouldn't be where we are today, finding hope, and seeking joy without strength from above.  In the story that God is writing.... I believe the journey is as important as the destination.  I am thankful, that in the pain, we can look back and see the journey we are walking and that we haven’t let the load slow us down.  In the end I hope I will look back on this life and smile because I decided to live and love it.  Life is messy.  But even in the ashes it can be beautiful.

Sending all our love to Nate today.  We may cry tears and feel sadness but we also celebrate you.  All that you were, all that you are, and all that you will be through the light that shines through.

All my love,

Katie

 

Blue Butterflies in Heights of Greatness

 

"It's a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness" - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Sometimes your reason for running is personal. Maybe you just like to run, or maybe like me you run trails to take in the beautiful canvas in front of you. You let your thoughts take the place of the wares and cares of everyday life and just reflect in an intimate setting the Lord provides. “Being a Ragnarian is more than crossing the finish line of a 200-mile running relay. It's about being a part of a supportive, inspiring, active community.” Each runner on the Team Nate Trail team this past weekend was inspiring, from start to finish! 

Russell Bly started us out as runner one, wearing a Team Nate shirt! Out of the hundreds of people there, that Team Nate shirt drew attention. A runner from another team asked to take a picture of his shirt because she remembered NCBF story from the Ragnar Trail in Richmond earlier this year.  The mission of NCBF, Nate's story, our teams’ reason for running, had made an impression on her!  The truth is we all run for Nate!  Nathan’s Uncle, Mike Cannon tells us why he runs: “At the Richmond Ragnar I was asked why I put myself through these races, I do these things to honor Nate.  It's not about the shirt or the medal. I do it to raise awareness for a foundation that means very much to our family.  Though I still get emotional, I get to tell countless people who Nate was and what the foundation stands for.  Running through the last half mile or so hearing hundreds of people cheer on team Nate is something I always cherish and hearing the announcer tell the gathered crowd about the foundation; who we are and that they are glad we are there.  I want to do this as much as I'm able. I want to help grow this foundation because Nate deserves it." 

It’s amazingly great what comes over a runner who is running for a cause and on a mission.  The strength that can be pulled out from deep inside that the runner themselves didn’t know they had.  Lisa Fleming tells us her account of digging deep: "The Ragnar road to greatness proved to be rocky… literally! This weekend I embarked on my 2nd Ragnar trail race and my 5th race for Team Nate.  I have been inspired by Justin and Katie’s greatness over the last few years and it has been an honor to be part of Team Nate. When the opportunity was presented to run for Nate, I jumped at the chance. Except this time, I grossly underestimated my physical rock shimmying capability… by A LOT. I completed the red loop first, the trail called “mother of crack” and I would say that name about sums it up!  6.5 miles of hills, rocks, mud, boulders, more hills, even more hills, and THE hill of .5 miles straight up.  I finished in blistered shape way behind my estimated time. It didn’t feel like there was much greatness in that run, but I was glad to be done. I bandaged my blistered feet and cheered on my teammates as they took off looking pumped and they returned looking…. Hot and exhausted.  The time came for my second leg, the yellow loop in the dark. All started off well and while my pace was slower than I liked, I was working my way through the rocks and mud. That is until mile 3, when I stepped the wrong way off of a series of staggered rocks going downhill.  I knew in the first step I took, I was hurt. There I stood, alone, in the dark, not even sure I could make my way to the finish 1.6 miles away. As frustration and disappointment set in, I began to doubt myself. My ability, my strength, and any perseverance I may have had. At that moment, I thought of the reason I wanted to be a part of this GREAT team in the first place. I thought of the GREATNESS that Justin and Katie embody as they work to share Nate’s legacy. I thought of Nate. So there, in the middle of that dark trail on a mountain, I decided that if I had some small piece of potential greatness somewhere deep down, now is the time to use it. I moved forward step after painful step. I slowly made it to the finish of that run and I was off to the medic tent!  The verdict was a sprained ankle (the first one I have ever had in my life) and landed on my knee which was sore.  Ice and rest for the night and reevaluate in the morning. Morning came, the knee felt good, but the ankle did not. It was coming time to run my final leg of 3.5 miles. Several of my amazing teammates offered to run my final leg for me in addition to theirs. After the medic took a look, I tried to run a few strides to see how it felt.  My knee said NOPE, my ankle said NOPE…. But my heart and mind said YES I will. I taped, and wrapped, and taped again my ankle so it wouldn’t move.  I set out on the green loop and what should have been a 45 minute run took me 1:15, but I kept my mind focused on the reason I was running. For Nate, and bringing notice to the GREAT foundation in his name.   I finished my loop to the encouragement from amazing teammates and we finished as a team what we set out to accomplish while spreading the word about NCBF. Hearing the shout out by the race announcer in recognition of NCBF and the purpose of the foundation as we finished was a great end to the race. I am so proud of our Ragnar team and to be a part of Team Nate!" 

The WV Red course was tough! Although I was unable to run, I watched as runner after runner, come in exhausted from running such a rough leg. Exhausted from the terrain, hills and sun that beat them down. When the next runner went out to tackle that course, they went out with optimism and excitement to beat that red leg. As each runner finished, they chilled out together talking about how they made it through.  Jenelle Cannon was the final runner, and in the hottest part of the day she set out to tackle her final leg, the dreaded red course. The team all watched the clock and counted down to her return.  As the team gathered together to bring her in, standing in the group with their Team Nate shirts, the announcer gave a shout out for Team Nate. Without being prepped he gave a brief description of what the foundation does over the loud speaker! As the team stood there and anticipated Jenelle to return utterly exhausted, she rounded the corner, with a smile, a "pep in her step" (as Russell put it), cheering the rest of the team to cross together. In amazement the team crossed together and were inspired by her unbroken spirit! The truth is, Jenelle was beat down, she was tired, she was hot and thirsty and she had a secret. It wasn't a special running/energy candy or drink, it was the thoughts of Nate that brought her in.

 "As I was hearing everyone come back from the red and the day was getting hot I was feeling really worried and stressed about my last leg of the course as my legs started cramping from the previous two runs and I knew I hadn't trained for hills like this. A few hours before my turn, I decided that I needed to just try to think positive, I was just going to have to make it through even if I had to walk a lot of it. So to help I started editing my playlist that I run with to all upbeat songs or ones that specifically were my "Nate songs". As I started the last run I decided that the way I was going to deal with this run was that I was going to walk during the verses of each song, run during the choruses and pause in between songs for a drink when I needed it. The first 2 miles I felt great, the right songs were coming to me at the right time as many runners probably understand and my system was working well. However, near mile 3 I was starting to feel worn down and tired and my current chorus came on and I thought to myself, I don't know that I can run this one maybe I'll walk it and I felt discouraged and no sooner did I think these thoughts than a small familiar looking blue butterfly came right in front of me across my path and instantly it reminded me of Nate.  You see, not long after Nate's  passing, my sister in law Julie had talked to me about her tattoo that she was getting in honor of Nate, something that reminded her of him from a special memory that they had shared together and I had remembered seeing it and thinking how nice it was that had gotten it, but honestly had not thought of that little blue butterfly since she had shown me years ago, but instantly my mind flooded with the memory she shared with me and thought wow that looks just like it. And I got that strength I needed to run, I just needed to think to myself, "this is for Nate remember... Run the chorus!" So I did, and then I got to the hill that everyone was talking about, the BIG one. I pushed up it, power walking as best I could and it felt like it was taking forever to get up that hill and I was feeling the hurt and feeling like it was never going to end. Then I got right near the top and was thinking I have to stop doing this to myself, signing up for trail runs like this..haha, but right near the top I couldn't believe my eyes as the small blue butterfly flew right in front of me again and I was shocked a bit and thought of Nate telling me "you made it to the top of the worst aunt Jenelle, I know you can do it" and I smiled. I also thought to myself how many butterflies are out here? I hadn't seen one outside of the woods and I really felt the significance of seeing this one twice, but I still wasn't going to share about it, it was just something that I felt personal and didn't want to be let down by others if they felt it was just coincidence. So I kept moving and was nearing mile 5 with only 1.5 to go and boy was I tired now, I had only trained to 4 and was pushing it and you may not believe it as I barely could myself, but in that discouragement that butterfly came on the path again and this time it didn't fly across. It went in front of me and went right up the path for what seemed like a very long time, now what butterfly flies up a path for so long?! Wow, I thought and I immediately began to cry. I ran toward it and I cried and smiled because I knew without doubt now that Nate was trying to get my attention and I literally said out loud, " I see you Nate buddy, I see you" You may think I was just putting things together to make myself feel better, but I truly felt it, the presence of his love and I know he was letting me know that he does see us doing these runs, he knows about the foundation and I could feel his pride in his family and in us. And these feelings made the rest of the race fly by as I felt that I needed to share this with the group, that it was for them too. When I got to the finish line I saw them all at the end ready to run in with me and I felt so overjoyed, in two days we were a team and we became a group of friends honoring this special boy and the legacy he has left behind of love, of going out and being great by sharing that love with the world. I love doing these races in his honor for this foundation and this Ragnar in the Appalachia will always be special to me not only because of it's beautiful landscape, the feeling of being up high on the mountain closer to God and to those I love and miss, but because that last leg where I felt I couldn't do it on my own, God and Nate let me know I didn't have to, they were there for us all." ~ Jenelle Cannon

Two weeks before I was supposed to run the WV Ragnar, I went in for an unexpected surgery. My husband and I had originally planned to run this trail with the team together, but the Lord had other plans. Although I was disappointed I would not be able to participate, I decided I would go, cheer on and encourage the team. Instead, they encouraged me.  With their strength beaten down, they endured the next leg anyway. With their positive attitudes in their physical exhaustion they encouraged each other anyway. With their hearts through injury they ran for Nate anyway! I missed running, I missed what it brings me; but being able to watch the team bond together through Nate was inspiring. Watching the accounts of what brought each runner through first hand, was amazing and such a blessing to my heart!  Running the trails brings me peace. Running with Team Nate inspires me. Together they bring GREATNESS.

Go Out. Be Great.

Ganelle Bly

 

From left to right: (back row) Russell Bly, Chris Fleming, Mike Cannon, Dave Sheppard (front row) Ganelle Bly, Jenelle Cannon, Keith Ruch, Lisa Fleming (Shane-not pictured)

The Journey

The day Nathan passed away we were handed a horrible decision to face. Our world was being changed and we ultimately held the fate of how we would face the new world being handed to us.  September 2, 2012 we were a family of 5.  September 3, 2012 we were a family of 5 with a child in heaven.  We were grieving parents.  

In the weeks that followed, we were overcome by heartbreak, by loss, my memory, by just pure raw broken pain.   We barely functioned each day but merely for our children.   We functioned merely by muscle memory of what you are supposed to do each day. People came and went through our house, delivered meals, cards, and flowers.  Some days, friends would make me eat because there wasn’t an ounce of energy or need for me to eat.  I cannot begin to adequately describe what the loss of a child feels like.  It is like your world, literally, broke and won’t ever be whole again.  The world we knew was gone in an instant.  Like your heart is crushed inside your chest.  You are breathing but it feels like your body is dying.  You feel the weight of grief all over your body.  It feels like you are carrying hundreds of pounds of weight on your shoulders daily.   You smile when you see familiar faces but it’s not real.  It is exhausting.  It is stressful.  It is…unimaginable.

In the months and year that passed I began to not only grieve Nathan but also grieve my old life.   I would never be able to return to the person I once was, the life I once had, or the life I once dreamed.  The mom I was, the friend I was, the spouse I was had left too.  I had to find my new changed self.    The way the grief changes you is hard to understand from the outside in.  Because from the outside I looked the same, but on the inside everything was broken, spinning, and unsteady.  The grief isn’t just of Nate and the child we loved so dearly.  It quickly became the grief of the life we dreamed for him as well.  The sports star we saw him being, the friend we knew he was, the graduations we won’t witness, the birthday’s that are now different, the father we saw him becoming, the daughter in law we will never have.   We grieve the dreams we had for him.

“You must be willing to let go of the life you had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us” - Joseph Campbell

Shortly after our loss of Nate I remember someone telling us, who had also been through loss, that there would come a day we look back and see our lives separated into two categories – the time with Nate and the time after losing Nate.  It is true.  Our lives changed the day we lost Nate.  We left behind our old life and pushed our way into a new life we didn’t want.  So yes, looking back I see, our life journey is two separate pieces.   It’s never easy.  It’s not fair that our lives are here in this journey.  

In the early days of grief, everyone felt the hurt with us.  As the days, months, and years have passed it often feels like the world has moved forward and we have to keep up.  The world forgets we have a son who died.   The world doesn’t know that there are still some things that are just too hard for us to do, or talk about, or listen to.  I still can’t listen to songs that were played at Nate’s service or songs that I listened to when my grief was the heaviest.  It’s too hard and I can’t go back there… yet.  The world doesn’t know what hurdles we have to overcome.  The world doesn’t understand our perspective on life and I don’t expect the world to understand.  The perspective we were given has allowed us to see the world through different eyes.   I have to constantly remind myself, challenge myself, and calm myself when I am disappointed in the difference of perspective.

September 2, 2012, I curled into a ball and barely moved.  September 3, 2012 we began making really tough decisions about life.   That same day we made the biggest decision that, I truly believe, has been our rock.   We made the decision to trust and love God.   To lean into Him even when we are screaming mad at Him.   We made a decision to Hope and let our life be His song.   We made the decision to surround ourselves with a support system that was faith filled.  We made the decision to step right back into church.  We refused to let our life, our story, crumble.   It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s our choice. 

"Suffering will change us but not necessarily for the better.  We have to choose that." - Wayne Cordeiro

I’m entering, what feels like, a change in this grief journey as I find myself stepping back and looking at the journey and how we’ve gotten to where we are.  I can look back at how crippling the pain was and feel sadness in finding happiness now.  But I want joy.  Real and honest joy.  I want to show unwavering love like God shows me.  I want to have compassion despite perspective.   I want God to use me and be seen through me.  That is so hard to do, to truly surrender, and let God just work.  I’ve wavered from that recently in letting life just take me spinning but I’m spending time now really stepping back and letting life just… be.   To really love every second, not be scared, and take each breath in.  Life is scary, and in this really hard year of milestones in grief, I don’t want to miss a second.   We’ve made a choice to get up each day since we lost Nathan, to continue life, to take care of Drew & Kaylee, to laugh, to love, to LIVE.  And not just merely exist but really live out each day.  There is guilt that comes with finding joy after loss that weighs down so deep, and reminds me of the early pain of grief, but God is clearly reminding me that it is okay and to surrender that too.  Yes, nearly 4 years later, joy is finding us because we have prayed, hoped, loved, laughed, and searched out happiness in life.   Joy doesn’t just happen.  It takes work, strength, and unwavering faith to pursue joy after grief.  And even in relentless grief and pain, joy is possible to find.

 

All My Love,

Katie

Running into Greatness

In January of 2013, just a few months after losing Nate, I made a crazy leap and signed up for a half marathon.  Let’s be really clear – I was in no condition to start training for a half marathon (not mentally, physically, or emotionally) but something in me knew I had to commit to something that year.  I needed a goal to work towards.  I needed that reward.  I needed that feeling of accomplishment.  I needed something that was just for me.  I was not a runner (I’m still not a runner) but I was determined to learn to run and get better at it.  By late summer, I was tackling long runs and learning to love the time it gave me to just do something for me, to be lost in thought, to “just be”.  Learning to love that with every step I was running into life.  A life, that no matter my pain, I wasn’t willing to give up and because running gave me a source of motivation and control when all everything else fell apart in my world   In August, I fell down the stairs, and sprained my ankle terribly.  I was so upset with life’s cards at that point because the one thing in life that I was working so hard for… was being ripped from me.  Against the doctors advice, I ran in that half marathon anyway, just weeks after getting my boot off and still in physical therapy, and not having finished all of my training.  I was determined that I was going to finish what I set out to do back in January.    Around mile 8 the pain set in unbearably… but I kept moving…  slow but moving.  Because, it was a parallel to my life, no matter the pain… I will finish what I started.  Mentally, I couldn’t give up… I had to cross that finish line.  Looking back, I lost track of the time from that point on, I actually don’t remember much of the last few miles of that race, but I know when I rounded that last corner and saw Justin, Drew, and Kaylee standing there – I realized it was life I was running towards.   Not the finish line.  With Kaylee on my hip and Drew in my hand, I crossed that finish line in tears that I accomplished it, no matter the challenge thrown my way.  Despite the pain, my life will keep moving forward, one step at a time.  I want to run towards life and not away from it.

This race was inspired by the support we got when the team formed for that first half marathon.  It’s now been on my heart for 3 years.   Like this unobtainable dream that kept flickering back to my heart.     Every year at our annual board meeting we’d float the idea around again and always push it off another year because it was a task that seemed so overwhelming and more of a risk.  We weren’t sure what to expect and would discuss the risks and the time it would take the grow the race and would always lean towards waiting another year to review it again.   Since, that half marathon in 2013, we have organized several Team Nate races.  In September 2015, we ran the Howard County Police Pace with about 75 other Team Nate runners.  I’ll never forget the moment, I looked around at 70 plus supporters, running a race, in a Team Nate shirt… and thinking “We have 75 people right here ready to run for Team Nate.  What are we doing?  Or better put… What are we NOT doing that we COULD be doing?”   So that desire to keep moving forward in big ways set in.

And there it began, I prayed every night that God would lead my heart on planning a race.  I always pray that God will keep His hands all over our foundation, but never as specifically as an event.   That November, as we sat around my dining room table meeting with our board, I approached the idea again.  But this time, more passionately.  Even though I was scared, I was confident we could do this.   I was just nervous enough that as the board agreed to research what a 5K would take to put on that I didn’t jump up first to chair it.    Luckily, our board member Chad Baker (no relation), said “Okay I’ll look into it.”

Literally, before I knew it, in a matter of weeks we had found out what permitting would take, found a location, picked a date, and were jumping in …. literally feet first.  Our team of 3 on the committee, Chad Baker, Doug Comer, and myself took off running!   We really didn’t have a grand idea of what we were doing but somehow we all knew… it would be GREAT.     We picked the date of May 15, 2016.   Within a few weeks we learned that this was the birth date of Sarah Jayne Orton.  Sarah passed away in 2013 as a Kindergartner as well and my heart immediately knew I wanted The Great 5K to host a 1 mile fun run in Sarah’s memory.   This was the first moment in this journey that I knew God played a role in the planning.  That timing wasn’t us alone.  We are honored to be able to host the 1 mile run in her memory.

Once we got through the initial research and planning the rest of the race planning fell into place.  Skipping to last Saturday night, when the race sold out.  I literally laid in bed waiting for the 400th registrant to register.  The smile was from ear to ear, my eyes filled with tears.   How did we get here?   How did we get from being scared, jumping in feet first, to now hosting a “SOLD OUT” race?   Uhm, wow… on our first year!    Then it literally struck me as I was reminded so vividly that it is not me alone.  It is not our 5K team alone.    I was brought to tears in an instant as I was reminded that we don’t do this alone.  We do this with Him.    The success of the 5K was not our work alone.  As much as I’d love to take partial credit for it with my team… it just couldn’t have been only us.

Now here we are… just 3 weeks away from race day with a SOLD OUT race.   (Really, did I just say that?!) And we are busy putting together all the final details of the race.   We have 400 runners that will be on site running and we have another 24 registered to run virtually across the country.   Our foundation has incredible support – in our 1st year we have 19 sponsors!   I can easily get caught up in the busy-ness of all the details but when I step back and look in from the outside, I just say WOW.   He is GREAT.   I know Nate is smiling down from heaven and I’m willing to bet, with Sarah by his side, saying “I told you so!”.

All my love,

Katie

 

Saying Thank You

In early 2014, I was first introduced to this cute little store in downtown Sykesville called "A La Mode Boutique".   If you’ve never been into the boutique, please go check it out.  It is adorable.   I actually have to pull myself out of there most days because I fall in love with everything!    And even more than the store, the owners Chris and Amie McCaslin, well they are just something special.   These two are some the sweetest people you will ever meet and are raising an adorable family.  As I watch them grow their business, continually give back in the community, and raise their children – it is a true testament to me of what it means to Go Out and Be Great.

A La Mode had donated to baskets and gift cards to the foundation but in 2014 they came to us and they wanted to do more.    So by March of 2014 the store began carrying our Go Out Be Great gear in their shop!   The store donates back 100% of our gear sales!   From the goodness of their hearts, they give back to the community by supporting The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation.   It is amazing to see how the foundation can spread by awareness with every customer who walks through those doors.

In 2015, A La mode sold $4, 200 in Go Out Be Great merchandise just from their Main Street Sykesville store alone!    Now A La Mode has a Main Street Ellicott City location as well and both stores are carrying our gear!  How cool is that?

Each shirt that is bought in A La Mode, on our website, or at an event not only raises money for our mission but it also inspires people to Go Out and Be Great and raises awareness every time the shirt is worn!

Today I was honored to present Amie McCaslin a plaque from The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation to say thank you for all the wonderful work they do.  Though words will never adequately express how grateful we are for A La Mode and their support we still want to say…   Thank you A La Mode!

*** Check out the new pink 1/4 zip Go Out Be Great ladies gear… available only at A La Mode Boutique! Supplies are limited so get yours before they are gone!***

Steadfast

So here goes…

Opening my heart and letting these words out.  These fears have been a mental challenge for me daily right now but each day I wake up, love on my family, move forward, and continue this journey of hope.  I know this is all a part of my journey of loss.  The things I never ever anticipated.

Sometime last fall, I was having lunch with a friend and our girls.    We were discussing how big they are getting and that they’d be off to Kindergarten so soon … just like that.  We laughed and joked about school.  I admitted how I am not ready and I am scared to put Miss Kaylee on the bus that first time.    Admittedly, I’ve done this twice before, it shouldn’t be such a big deal, but she’s my baby.    I worry that Kaylee will be scared getting on a school bus by herself.   Before I could even fully process what was coming next, just friends talking casually, I heard something along the lines of, “Oh my daughter will be fine she will march right on the bus with her big sister and together they happily walk into school.”  I went blank.  Numb. Whatever was said after that I don’t even remember because my entire body went numb.  Not because I was offended.  I wasn’t offended.  But because I couldn’t wrap my mind around my reality.  And there began my steps through the upcoming year.

Kaylee was supposed to be marching on the bus with Nate.  Nate, being the big brother that was going to hold her hand, tell her its okay, and show her the way.  He would be in school with her.  He would protect her.  This just isn’t fair.

As fall creeped by, winter set in, and Kaylee’s 5th birthday approached my heart became ever more aware of the year ahead.   This was the year I’ve been emotionally dreading for some time now and, now, here I am.   I am in it.

Kaylee is now 5.   She is the same age as we last knew Nate.   This year, she will pass Nate’s earthly age.  She is his size, she has his foot steps.  Sometimes she has his laugh, his quirky faces, and giggles.  She is sweet but she has his stubborn side. She makes your work hard for each hug but when you get that hug you feel her forever squeeze.

How does a parent wrap their mind around that?  How does my youngest child pass her older brother in age?   She will grow and mature past the place where we remember him.    It’s not the way life was intended for us to live.  In this journey of grief we are on… that is a huge mountain to climb.

The year ahead brings a lot of fear for me.   Deep down, I know that most of that fear is crazy talk – I, honestly, have enough of myself grounded to realize that.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  I am afraid of her being 5.  I am afraid of her turning 6.  I am afraid of missing one second of life with her or Drew. I am afraid of her first bus ride or to see the look on her face when she comes running off the bus excited.   I am afraid of Kindergarten.   I am afraid of that first day of school.  The first week of school.   The second week of school.  The weeks Nate didn’t get. The time we don’t have.  I am afraid to see the year ahead.  Each school year is hard for me to process and put Drew back on a bus after summer break, but my baby, Nate’s little sister, the one he was supposed to take to school….  I can’t even wrap my mind around it.   I am trying to get this parenting thing right.   There is no guide on how to grieving parents should parent grieving children but we are giving it all we have with our arms and hearts wide open.

When Drew was in Kindergarten, I had Nate home cuddling with me, and this baby girl of mine in my belly still.   I am afraid of the emptiness of the house when Kaylee is off to school as well.

This week, while I was in the elementary school, I jokingly told the front office to get ready for me next year that I’ll be that crazy momma who sends her baby off to Kindergarten.    You know what I heard back, one of the most comforting yet simple compliments.   “Not you… you are a very grounded Momma.”   I walked away feeling humbled…  because despite how crazy I may feel at times, we are doing this parenting thing okay.   Grounded… that is exactly what I want my kids to see.  I want them to enjoy and love life and not be confined by the fears that “could” control us all.

Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be strong.  And do everything with love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Each year, since 2013, I have picked a word to help me focus for the year.     This year I had struggled with what the word should be.  I knew I needed a word to push me through the year ahead.  To help me be brave, to help me put one foot in front of the other each day, and a word that would remind me to turn into Christ daily.    Then this verse hit me.  It hit me like a thump over the head.  Literally, as if God tapped me on the shoulder and said hello!   Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be strong.  And do everything with love.   I knew right away what my word needed to be: Steadfast.

Steadfast is defined is fixed, firm, and unwavering.  I need to be firm in my faith, unwavering in my strength, and abundant in my love.  I need to be steadfast.  Whether I like it or not, this year will keep moving forward.   Kaylee will, undoubtedly, ask more questions about Nate.   She will start Kindergarten, she will pass his earthly age, she will outgrow him.   We will look at her book of pictures of her and Nate many times over.   We will continue to share Nate with her in every way we know how.  We will all keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The road isn’t easy.  It hasn’t been and it won’t be.  But with hope, and love, we will not only make it through but we will come out on the other side even stronger in faith.

Greatness lies in each of us.  Sometimes, you just have to dig deep to find it.

Go Out. Be Great.

All my love,

Katie

 

Sharing Our Story

May my heart be kind, my mind fierce, and my spirit brave. – Kate Forsyth.

It’s been awhile since I’ve really sat down to write in this blog.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me why I haven’t written and posted a blog lately.    My initial response was to say, “I am so busy that I haven’t had time to sit and write”.  2015 seriously, flew by… and 2016 is headed in the same direction.   I really haven’t had that same dedicated quiet time where I could just sit and let emotion spill out, sometimes literally with tears, to the keyboard.  Honestly, there have been a few stories that I really wanted to share but as weeks ticked by the moment didn’t have the same impact when I tried to formulate the thoughts.

While, that may be partially true that I didn’t have time, it wasn’t the full truth.  So then I began to confess more.

At a certain point last year, I hit a wall.   A privacy wall where I began to wonder if I was sharing to much about our life when I wrote.   As I poured out thoughts on a blog, or shared countless pictures, I began to question how much of our personal life is supposed to be shared? How much am I supposed to keep private for my family?  What emotions do I protect my children from when they are old enough to look back and read these posts?   As my children grow it became more and more apparent to me just how much I was sharing or what I wasn’t sharing for that matter.  I began to find myself protecting pieces of a story to protect their privacy.    In 2012, when we started this blog and started sharing it was truly a way for me to express everything in my head.  It became an outlet and a source of connection to family, friends, and community.    I didn’t realize, 3 years later, that it would be read by so many.  Or that as time has passed the reality of my children, and their peers, being able to read it would be so evident. Writing became a battle of what and how much can I pour out.

I’ve never been shy about saying my children are my first priority and what is best for them will always come first, for Drew & Kaylee, and also for Nate’s story.    I want to be fair, honest, and full of love for each of my children.   I want to do what is right for all 3 of them.   Because, even though, on Earth to the unknown eye, they see me with two children…  I will always have 3.  As a mom, I will always take care of all of my children.  And Nate’s story, our story, is being called to be heard.

I have to admit, I miss that feeling of connection that this blog gave me.  It was an emotional release for me and hearing all the kind and loving comments in response to our stories was always so filling in my soul.   Over the last few weeks, I have been praying over where this blog should be.   It keeps hitting me over the head so vividly….  God wants us to use our story to share with the world.  We have a story that should be heard and shared.  A story that could be used to help others see their way through a similar journey.   We have a story to share about Nate, to share about our journey, but also to share of our faith in Him.   I believe that God wants to use our story for His story.      

So here, I am, with a brave and faithful spirit…   writing again.

Two loves sending love to one more love, Nate.  These moments in this journey …  they fill my heart.

This pain is real.  This journey is hard.  I will keep pushing to be better.  I will keep pushing to be GREAT through this pain and in this journey filled with hope.

xoxo,

Katie

 

Great Things In 2015

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." - Vincent Van Gogh

Wow, we can’t believe another year has gone by so quickly at The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation and we continue to be overwhelmed as we think of the support that we continue to receive from everyone.   Last year we posted our “Year In Review” for the community to see exactly what we were up to all year.  We had great feedback after sharing so we decided to make this an annual post!

As a board, we started off our 3rd year by meeting as a team in February 2015, where we brainstormed and planned for the year ahead!  We spent hours chatting, as a team, about the year ahead in which we were planning our 2nd Annual Golf Tournament and our 4th Annual Fun Day.  We discussed applications for school playgrounds, a baseball field, and brainstormed merchandise, and more fundraising! Our NCB team is an amazing group of people that have become great friends.  These meetings are long and there is a lot to talk about but there isn’t a better way to spend this time than with a team who all have the same goal…  making The Nathan Chris Baker Foundation GREAT!

Since 2012, NCBF has done some great things and made a significant impact on the community and the lives of others. We have donated over $140,000 back to the community in an effort to assist with large projects and small efforts to improve the lives of others.

In 2014, we created our Days of Greatness program and in 2015 it continued to thrive!   This program has been a huge success at lifting the spirits of families and individuals who are going through some tough times dealing with illness and financial struggles. Our Days of Greatness team was able to send many care packages throughout the year to families in need, send 2 families out for a Day of Greatness, and gave a 3rd family a Christmas to remember.  It’s always fulfilling to see the smiles in the pictures and stories that these families share.  We sent one young boy fighting cancer, and his family, out on a chartered fishing trip to enjoy a day on the bay catching rock fish.  The team sent another family fighting illness on an overnight stay at Hershey Park to enjoy a day together without worry. Lastly, we helped a family in Frederick, Maryland have a great Christmas by bringing Christmas to them!  We came out with our NCB elves and decorated their house with lights and garland to help light the season.  We also supplied their Christmas in the way of presents under the tree!  We were thrilled to take this financial stress and time off the family so that they could spend every minute together cherishing the season.  Additionally, this year we got to give back in the community by purchasing and delivering secret Santa baskets to families that just needed a little boost of surprise GREATNESS.  We were able to drop baskets to 10 families throughout the Carroll County area during the month of December.

Earlier this year, we released our partnership with Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks to commit $30,000 to building a youth baseball field for kids 8 to 12 years old across from Winfield Elementary. To date, we have donated $15,000 to this project and look forward to working with the Department of Recreation and Parks on this field!

NCBF donated an additional $2,000 to Runnymede Elementary School bringing our total donation to $12,0000 since December 2014. These funds will assist in building a new playground at the school.

Tate the GREAT joined NCBF’s team in 2015. Tate is NCBF’s mascot and was named through suggestions of the public. Nathan was often referred to as “Nater Tater” so “Tate the Great” was a perfect fit.   Tate has been a fun addition to our team and has brought many smiles and lots of laughter to each event since!

This year we finished an 8 month fundraising campaign with the collection of Glory Days receipts by receiving a check for $580. Thanks so much to everyone who helped collect and mail in your receipts, the money was used to fund an additional “Day of Greatness”. Every time we opened the PO Box to see another full box of receipts we were amazed!    Thank you for sharing greatness!

In March, we entered the Carroll Arts Peep Show as a way to spread awareness to the foundation.  We collected peep donations from the community to create our “Sliding into GREATness” design and we won an award for Best Non Profit Entry.

In May, we had our 2nd Annual Golf Outing at Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City. The tournament was a huge success hosting 132 golfers on one of Turf Valley’s beautiful courses. The tournament is NCBF’s largest fundraiser of the year and contributes greatly to our goal of assisting others in the community.  We will be hosting our 3rd Annual Golf Tournament on Friday, June 24, 2016!

In July, we had a team create a parade float and we walked in the Winfield parade as a way to be involved in the community!  We passed out candy, informational post cards, and got to see smiles on so many faces as Tate the Great dance and waved.

In August, the foundation had a beautiful night out at Camden Yards with our supporters!  The night was a fun night, raised awareness, and raised money for more great things!

In September 2015, we held our 4th annual “Nathan Chris Baker Fun Day” at Hoppers Kids Zone with incredible weather and a GREAT turnout of over 1000 people.  We added a few new carnival games and a gaming truck which were big hits for both kids and adults!  This event remains special to our team since it started just two months after the loss of Nate.  We cannot thank everyone enough for your continued support for this event. We couldn’t do it without all of the attendees, sponsors, and donations that came through. It sure was a GREAT day to get outdoors and enjoy some time with your family and enjoying this great community.

Throughout 2015, NCBF organized several teams that participated in many running events to inspire personal greatness and raise awareness for the foundation in both Maryland and Virginia.  These teams have adopted the name “Team Nate” over the years.  2015 races included the Historic Half marathon and 5K and the Tough Mudder in Virginia, Police Pace 5K in Columbia Maryland, Baltimore Running Festival, and the Ragnar Relay race from Western Maryland to Washington DC.   These Team Nate races have been rewarding both personally and for the foundation.   As a team, we have decided to not continue to organize team races but instead move forward with hosting our very own race!  On May 15, 2016 we will share with you our vision of The GREAT 5k and 1 mile fun run and we can’t wait.  Hope to see you all there and see your greatness on the course!

Looking back on 2015 – we are so grateful to so many people and businesses in the Carroll and Howard County areas for your unwavering support throughout 2015. It has allowed us to help so many individuals and families in need to Go Out and Be Great. We thank you from the bottom or our hearts for your time, donations, prayers, and overwhelming support at all our events. We look forward to an exciting year of helping many individuals, families, and the community in 2016.

Go Out. Be Great.

From the bottom of our hearts,

Justin, Katie, and THE NCB TEAM

Not Just Merely Existing

"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do" – Brene Brown

 

Last weekend, 6 of us set out on a crazy adventure to hike Mt LeConte in the Smoky Mountain National Park.  We hiked around 25 miles in about 36 hours and spent the night in a rustic lodge at the top.  No road access, no electricity, no running water, just you on top of the world!

The hike up was beautiful and stunning.  Gorgeous views you could stare at for days.  The hike was about 5.5 miles to the lodge and about at 2500 elevation gain.  The hike had a few narrow cliffs where cables had been installed to hold as you cross.  It was a stunning experience to be holding on by your right hand and just staring off into beauty to the left.

After we reached the lodge and checked in we decided to explore a bit.   We hiked up to the summit, Cliff Tops, to explore.  To sit at the summit and look out over the mountains is such a literal breath of fresh air.  Cut off from society, you are able to just breathe in the beauty that we so often take for granted.   It was actually drizzling a little bit at that time but I didn’t care one bit.  I was completely awe struck by the moment and the beauty.  For me, I was able to breathe God in,to see his beauty, and feel inspired to do more.  There were moments of total peace and comfort.   I stared into the horizon and thought about Nate, my family, and also how grateful I am that I’m not afraid to really live and love this life.    As I gazed at the beauty that surrounded me the entire day I realized that this life is pretty amazing no matter our circumstances.

After losing Nate, one of my biggest fears for myself and my family is that we’d be scared.  That life, itself, would frighten us and leave us paralyzed by the fears.   I was scared that I wouldn’t really want to “live” life anymore for fear that something bad might happen to us.   We have not let fear stop us.   We keep moving.  We keep move forward.  We tackle new days and we tackle new challenges.   Sitting at the summit of this hike really gave me some clarity to that.   I am so grateful that God continues to give us strength not to just merely exist in this world but to really LIVE it, LOVE it, and EXPERIENCE it.  That doesn’t mean we don’t miss Nate every second of every day.  It means we make a choice each day to embrace life.

In the days before the hike we decided we would all wear our Team Nate and Go Out Be Great shirts.  This was not a team organized event but something we knew was pushing each of us beyond our limits and inspiring greatness in each of us.It’s amazing when you put 6 people in the same shirts the questions it sparked.  We crossed other hikers that would encourage us by chanting as we passed “Go Out Be Great”, people who would ask “Whose Nate?”, we ran into so many people that asked us about Team Nate and the foundation.  The hike proved inspiring in many ways!  Not only did we reach the summit, we tackled fears, and we challenged ourselves, but we were also able to share Nate and the foundation to so many people!

Go Out. Be Great.

Love,

Katie