Инстаграм @peopleofmemorialpark People Of Memorial Park
When JoMarie @jfloresfd was in the 7th grade, she was tasked with drawing a picture of what she wanted to be when she grew up. The majority of the class turned in pictures of doctors, teachers, & professional athletes, but JoMarie’s stood out. She was wearing high heels, a black suit, and a lab coat, her mouth was covered by a mask, & she was standing next to a dead body. Even at 12 yrs old, she knew she wanted to be a #funeraldirector and was fascinated w/ the job. As soon as she graduated from high school, she started working towards obtaining her license at Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Services. JoMarie is thankful for her grandfather who encouraged her to pursue her dream, even while other members of her family were less than supportive. In high school, she also started running. She has a family history of obesity & decided she did not want to suffer like she had seen others do. She says that she used to run w/ headphones, but during a stressful time in her career, she left the headphones at home in hopes of being able to clear her mind during the workout. To her delight, it worked, and she felt refreshed & relaxed when she finished running. After her son was born, she took him to #MemorialPark to run, but when he turned 2, he did not want to sit in the baby jogger any more. JoMarie became frustrated w/ trying to get her workout in, and thought about quitting, but then she met the Houston Striders’ Bob Schamus. He encouraged her to join the club, and when she finally did, she found the encouragement & support she needed to continue running. She appreciated that there were other moms who could relate to her situation, and she felt valued when they invited her to be on their relay team, even though she did not consider herself fast. This year, JoMarie is part of the Houston’s Marathon’s #RunForAReason campaign. She is raising money for 3A Bereavement, which helps w/ the burial expenses of Houston’s working poor. After 15-yrs as a funeral director, she has found a way to combine her love for running with her compassionate heart & enthusiasm for her job! #runhou #runhouston #houstonstriders #mommy #followyourdreams
One more random thought about President George H.W. Bush and my experience writing People of Memorial Park: When I set out to write the book, someone told me that no matter how many times I reviewed the rough draft, there would always be a mistake that I or the publisher did not catch. Sure enough, that turned out to be true! At first I struggled to decide what order I would present the 45 stories in the book. Finally, I settled on arranging them alphabetically by last name. Sure enough, when I finally held the book in my hands, it dawned on me that President Bush’s story was before Bob (The Birdman) Bunoza’s story. I’m guessing there were at least 1,000 sets of eyes that looked at that list and never caught the mistake. Oh well…it’s too late now. These photos are from Bob. He ran with President Bush a couple times and loves to recount how someone informed Bush, “You are President of the United States, but did you know you are running with the Mayor of Memorial Park?” #serviceaboveself #stories #memorialpark #mistake #duh #mayor #presidentgeorgehwbush #bush41 #presidentbush #bush
Do you have a memory of seeing President George H. W. Bush at Memorial Park? I remember seeing him and his dog, Millie, there a few times after he moved back to Houston. I love how the Park is a gathering place for all types of people, from the President of the United States to the homeless man on the streets. President Bush was also a fan of Memorial Park and was always gracious when people spoke to him on the trail. #memorialpark #gatheringplace #presidentgeorgehwbush #bush41 #stretchingonthetrail
Adam @kid_a_rob started running as a teenager to spend time with his dad, but says that over time, his athletic achievements, along with his career, became idols. His thoughts and time were consumed with what he needed to do to get faster, even though he felt God convicting him to have other priorities. Then, during the 2015 Woodlands Marathon, Adam says he lost his vision around the 23-mile mark and spent the last 3 miles alternating between walking and running while his eyesight faded in and out. Adam’s wife, Carissa @carissajrobertson, insisted he see a doctor. They had 4 young girls and she was not interested in Adam waiting to see if it would go away. Finally, in December 2015, Adam was diagnosed with a brain tumor that needed to be removed immediately. His doctor warned that he may not remember his family when he woke up from the surgery, but the risks associated with not going forward with the procedure were far greater. However, when the surgeon opened Adam’s skull, he was shocked to find that the massive tumor did not have “roots” growing into Adam’s brain. Instead, it was easily removed. Not only did he remember everyone in his family, when Carissa left the hospital late after the surgery, Adam had to remind her where she put her keys that morning when they parked the car! Instead of being hospitalized for 30 days after the surgery, he was sent home the following day with a clean bill of health. Adam says that event changed his outlook in life. He believed his life was miraculously spared, and felt like he should devote his life to sharing God’s love with everyone he knew. He quit his job in oil and gas and began working for #visionrescue, a non-profit that feeds, educates, and provides hope of a better life to kids in the slums of India. Adam also began focusing his time and energy on being the best husband and father instead of the best runner. He started running with his oldest daughter, Lillian, and says he finds more joy in spending time with her than he ever did in seeing his times improve. #daddy #priorities #walkingmiracle #jesusfirst #philippeans413
Rick grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and in his job as a civil /structural engineer, has lived in numerous cities throughout the world. He says that regardless of where he goes, people tell him they like his thick, slow southern drawl. As a young boy he took pride in the fact that he was faster at distance running than all of his friends. Rick’s family was poor, so he started betting his friends that he could run the mile-long block around their neighborhood faster than anyone else. They all agreed the losers had to chip in and buy the winner a bottle of RC Cola and a bag of peanuts. Rick says he always won the races, which was the only time he was able to enjoy the treat since someone else was paying. He loved pouring the salty peanuts in the cold soda before drinking it. He says his favorite city to live in was Perth, Australia because the views of the ocean are gorgeous, there is an abundance of fresh air and friendly people, and there is a rich culture of being active. He appreciates similar aspects that Memorial Park offers where he often meets his friends at the stretching deck after he has worked out. About 17 yrs ago, Rick started experiencing numbness of the feet and ankles, as well as a loss of muscle tissue, cramping, and a squeezing sensation in the lower legs. Ten yrs passed with visits to numerous medical experts and unending tests, with no answers or diagnosis to the slowly worsening condition. Finally, a mutation was discovered on the DRP2 gene, a sister gene to the gene which causes muscular dystrophy. He was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth disease caused by the DRP2 gene mutation and told there was only 1 other person with the same diagnosis. Rick says he continued to run because he enjoys exercising and being outdoors, and he believes it is a vital contribution to his overall health. Rick’s doctor, who is a world expert on Charcot Marie Tooth disease, reluctantly accepts Rick's running, knowing that mild exercise and staying healthy is paramount. Today Rick is looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his sweet wife. He will continue to run as long as he is able.
Anastasia @anastasiachansen grew up in Houston, but left the city for 4-years to attend Notre Dame. She played water polo in high school & college and was a sprinter on her team. This meant it was her responsibility to swim as fast as possible to try and retrieve the ball from the middle of the pool before the opposing team could. In college she began jogging because she was looking for a way to cross train. Her only constraint was that she had a sprinter mentality, so attempting to jog without stopping for an extended period of time was a challenge. A few years after graduating from college, a couple of Anastasia’s friends suggested they all train for a half marathon. She says she was excited about the opportunity to spend time w/ her friends but had anxiety about how far she would have to run. Each week, as they would meet for their long runs & plan to run one more mile than the week before, Anastasia would have to constantly remind herself, “You can do it! It’s only 10 more minutes than you ran last week.” She blogged about her adventures in a series called “Chronicles of a Swimmer Who Dabbles in Running” and then was honored to be selected as an Ambassador for the Houston Half Marathon. Now her perspective has changed & she considers herself a Runner instead of a Swimmer. Anastasia’s job as a consultant has her based in Houston, but she also travels extensively. She thinks runners have an advantage when they travel, because it is the best way to explore a new city. However, she says she is grateful to live in Houston. Four years ago, Anastasia & her friend created a blog called @ItsNotHouItsMe. They wanted to highlight and celebrate different aspects of the city including the arts, festivals, restaurants, & parks, along w/ its diversity and the low cost of living. Anastasia says she does not want to run a marathon because she believes she should have moderation in all things. However, one thing she will quickly confess is that she thinks Houston is the best city in the world. She hopes others will also realize her passion & appreciate all it has to offer. #houston #youcandoit #runhou #runhouston #notredame #htxblogger #ilovehtx #houstonproud #itsnothouitsme
Fredis @fredis_b played baseball during his 4-yrs at Hastings High School. At the start of his junior year, he had a small conversation with the Cross Country coach and he invited him to practice with the team. Fredis agreed, but says the first practices and meet were pure torture. He has vivid memories of pushing his body harder than he ever had before, all while feeling exhausted and nauseated. But he also gained a deep respect for distance running. The challenge of learning how to overcome the agony made him to want to continue running. He also enjoyed running as a team. Although he had played baseball, he says he felt the team aspect was different on the cross country course where his teammates encouraged each other and the entire group was excited to see each others steady improvement over the course of the season. When Fredis graduated from college, he knew he wanted something more than the traditional path of finding a job and striving to move up the career ladder. He had a stressful job and used running at the end of the day to relax and regain his quiet, steady demeanor. Ultimately Fredis came to the point where he felt like the heartache and stress were not worth the paycheck, and he decided to resign. He quickly found another job and that experience gave him the confidence to trust his instinct and strive for more, even if it is not guaranteed. In that time Fredis also began exploring photography and ultimately decided to invest in a professional camera. What started as a hobby has become a passionate hustle and he loves watching his clients’ faces light up when they see his work. Fredis is soft spoken, but quick to encourage anyone he sees and thankful to be a part of Houston’s running community.
Have you seen the AARP commercial at https://ispot.tv/a/w4lc? If so, did you realize that Memorial Park’s own Gloria Favuzza @gloriafavuzza is featured in the swimming and exercise ball scenes? Gloria says that commercial has been the break she was looking for in her acting career because it has opened up new opportunities for auditions across the country. Gloria grew up in a tiny Pennsylvania farming town. Her dad owned 3 drive-in theaters, and Gloria often went with him to preview a short run of the movies that would be shown at their drive-ins. Then, in 1976, Rocky debuted and all of the sudden Philadelphia was the coolest city in the world. Gloria still gets sentimental and her eyes glaze over when she talks about what the movie means to her. She moved to Houston in 1983 and a friend introduced her to Al Lawrence. He coached her for the next 30 yrs and was like a father to her. More than his coaching, Al encouraged her and she gained confidence because he believed in her. Gloria has gone through ups and downs in her training and racing career, but through it all, she has remined active. When she went to the AARP audition, the producers said they needed an aerobics instructor. Gloria immediately started dancing around and singing Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit, Gloria, at the top of her lungs. She said the producers all laughed and agreed she had more energy than they did. She got the part, but thinks it had as much to do with her athletic fitness as it did her acting talent. She says another funny thing was that after spending an hour going through the enormous wardrobe room looking for what she should wear in the swimming scene, the producers ultimately decided Gloria’s own $5 swimsuit from Goodwill was a better fit than all the glamorous items hanging on the racks. She says friends and family often ask why she doesn’t get a “real” job so she can have a more reliable income, but she is quick to respond. Gloria had 3 friends who passed away in the last 2 yrs, and she knows life is short. She tells any naysayers that she is pursuing her passion, and she prefers a life of excitement and uncertainty over a boring, steady future that could all end tomorrow.
Chris grew up in Clear Lake and saw his dad leave the house to run at Memorial Park almost every morning. He followed his dad’s example and has enjoyed running to exercise and hang out with friends for many years. Joanne, on the other hand, only started running several years after she had graduated from college and nursing school. A co-worker asked if she wanted to meet at the gym to work out, and Jo decided to arrive a few minutes early to warm up on the treadmill. That short warm up progressed into a desire to do a 5K, then a half marathon, then a full. During those years, she trained on her own and found satisfaction in meeting new milestones. Then, one morning in 2015, both Chris and Jo showed up at Kung Fu Running Club’s Saturday long run at Buffalo Bayou Brewery. After finishing the workout, Jo stepped in line for a beer directly behind Chris, so he turned around and began making small talk. He says he immediately thought she was beautiful and funny. That lead to their first non-running date where they realized that they had more in common than a love for running. They both graduated from Clear Creek High School and went to the same church as kids. Although Jo is 4-years older, they are sure they probably crossed paths several times while growing up. A few months later, Chris asked Jo what types of wedding rings she liked. When she told him she preferred blue sapphires over huge diamonds, he says he knew she was the one. Soon, they were engaged and planning a wedding in Playa del Carmen. Chris wore a traditional Filipino barong tagalog to honor Jo’s family. She says her dad was delighted, but Chris admits he would have worn anything…all he wanted was to marry Jo. Today they both work in the medical field and run together as often as their schedules allow. They work hard, but also make a priority out of spending time together and going on adventures across the country. If you are fortunate enough to meet them, you will be encouraged by their sweet relationship: Jo laughs at all of Chris’ jokes and he frequently mentions how much he adores her! @luvatfirstrun #leonardsson #cutecouple #kungfurunningclub #buffalobayoubrewing #cchs #nurse #physicaltherapist
Part 2 of 2 - During her time at the Women’s Home, Sarah recalled how much she enjoyed running on her high school track team. She decided to wake up early every morning and jog 2-miles to Buffalo Bayou and back. The other ladies at the Center started calling her The Runner. During this time, Sarah went to a local running store to buy shoes and saw her former coach who had tried desperately to encourage her 10 years earlier. Although, looking back, Sarah thinks the coach would have been delighted to see her, she says she was too ashamed to even say Hello. She was embarrassed at what her life had become and thought the coach would be disappointed. She entered AA and began hearing stories of other individuals who had overcome addictive lifestyles. One of those women was also a runner, and Sarah felt like she could relate to everything she said. Sarah asked her to be her sponsor, and they began stepwork and training for longer and longer races. She says they would often meet at Memorial Park, and she feels like the Park was instrumental in her transformation. Their time on the trail was as much about healing as it was about exercising. Then Sarah met her sponsor’s brother who was training for the IRONMAN in Kona. She says he was incredibly inspiring, and he told her she could also complete an IRONMAN race if she believed in herself. Contrary to her defiant response to her high school coach, Sarah’s heart had softened and her friend’s encouragement caused Sarah to believe she was capable. She signed up for the 2015 race in The Woodlands and has now completed 3 IRONMAN races, 5 marathons, 5 half marathons and shorter tris too. Her desire is to qualify for Kona, but she has realized that good health and gratitude outweigh anything else. Instead of focusing on Kona, Sarah has decided to focus on the big picture of staying healthy and being thankful for her new life. In her 6-years of being sober, Sarah went from being homeless without a single true friend to an athletic wife, mother and lives a life of gratitude. #memorialpark #ironman #sober #redeemed #newlife #healingwhiletraining #triathlete #inspiration #beautiful
Part 1 of 2-To say Sarah @sarahstrilife has had a rough life is an understatement. Her mom died of cancer when she was 4. At 16 she had her first taste of alcohol and would continue to choose alcohol to help her deal with the pressures of high school, depression, and anxiety. Sarah ran track at Rayburn High School in Pasadena, and her coach realized Sarah had potential. The coach worked hard to encourage her and suggested she should take running seriously, but Sarah ultimately decided she was not interested in spending the time or energy to train. There came a time in college that once she started drinking, she could not stop and her life was changed forever. Then, in 2008 she found out she was pregnant. Sarah hoped that being a mother would be enough to keep her sober, but after her daughter was born she went back to her old ways. Her life revolved around mind and mood altering substances, and she ultimately chose to feed her addictions over being a mother. She still cries when talking about what a terrible mom and friend she was. Finally, the state of Texas decided she was not allowed to see her daughter anymore. Sarah could not even go to the trial because she was in the hospital recovering from an overdose. Then, one night, she says she decided she had had enough. She told God, “I don’t know if you are there, or if you hear me, but if you do, I will do anything you tell me.” Suddenly a bright light filled the room and she heard a voice say, “Get out of there.” Sarah asked a girl to drive her to the hospital, and she checked in to a long road of recovery and restoration. Looking back, she says she changed that night. God gave her a new mind and new heart. Upon completing detox she enrolled at the Women’s Home in Montrose. She lived there for 9 months until she was considered Overly Qualified and had to move to an apartment. Sarah also longed to see her daughter again. She says she was at work one day and prayed, asking God to restore their relationship. The next morning, she received a call from an attorney saying he had heard her story and wanted to help her get her daughter back. #sober #soberlife #rockbottom #redeemed #newlife #houston #mom #memorialpark
Caitlin grew up in the small town of Caldwell, TX. In high school she completed training towards a career as an EMT. She was given the opportunity to ride along in ambulances & loved learning about what to do in traumatic, dangerous situations. Although many people have a romanticized view of living in the country, Caitlin’s life has been marked by sadness and tragedy. Many of the people close to her struggled with alcoholism, depression, sickness, suicide, and physical abuse. Caitlin grew up thinking this was “normal”, but also knew she longed for something better. Then in 2014 at the age of 24, she was riding on the back of a motorcycle when she was hit by a girl who was texting while driving. As she lay in the middle of the road, she immediately recalled her training as an EMT. She began screaming so the other vehicles would not run over her. Bystanders rushed forward and traffic halted. Caitlin says she remembers every detail of the accident until just before surgery. The first thing the nurse told her when she awoke was that she was pregnant! Caitlin was thrilled, but was in for excruciating pain as doctors spent 2-wks trying to save her leg. She went through several surgeries under minimal anesthesia to keep the baby safe. Finally, doctors were at a loss for saving her leg, but Caitlin was ready to move on. She was prepared for them to amputate and quickly changed her sights to being able to walk again. In 2015 she moved to Houston and met other amputees who inspired her to become active. She joined a gym and entered a her first 5k. Caitlin’s prosthetist promised to help her figure out how to do anything she desired, and today she wants to be the first amputee speed skater. Looking back, she says she is extremely thankful for the accident. If it had not happened, she thinks she would be sitting behind a desk in a small town, being miserable. She feels like the accident exposed her to a new world of overcoming fear while striving to make the best of life. She wants to be an inspiration to her daughter and demonstrate there is more to life than settling. #bestrong #bebrave #bebold #beyou #cantstopwontstop #noexcuses #hybridathlete #memorialpark
Starla grew up in the valley of south Texas. As a young girl, any time she raced other children-even boys-she would always win. She knew she had a talent and by the time she was a junior in high school she stopped all of her other activities so she could focus on running. During this time Starla says she began paying more attention to what she was eating. She says it all started innocently, but she felt like food had a direct correlation to how well she raced. She does not remember an exact time when food went from something that was fun to learn about to an obsession that she felt like she had to control. Starla was recruited heavily during high school & decided to run for the Univ of Houston. By the time she entered college each day brought tremendous mood swings, irritability, & depression. One of the classes that was required for her degree was Intro to Psychology. The professor had the students complete several assessments that were designed to teach how psychological concerns are diagnosed. Starla laughs now b/c she says that as answered the questions for eating disorders she thought, “This is me.” However, she reconciled that thought by telling herself that she was eating…it was not as if she was anorexic. But, if truth be told, she was not eating a lot. Also, she would obsess for days over foods she should not have eaten and no one wanted to be around her because she was so irritable. Finally, her coach recognized the warning signs & insisted she get help. Starla was willing to accept the help b/c she knew she would lose her scholarship if she did not. Over the next 2-yrs she went through hundreds of hours of counseling & doctor’s visits. Today she is grateful for her coach & friends who were so patient as she learned how to change her outlook on life. After graduating with a Master’s in Health Education Starla took a couple years off from running to focus on her career, but in the last 2-yrs she has returned to the sport & become a Registered Dietician. She has a beautiful stride and seems to float as she runs, but more than anything, she wants her story of overcoming something that was controlling her every thought to encourage others & give them hope.
In 2001 Rachel @rachelhanse & her family were living in Summit, NJ when the terrorists attacked on Sept 11th. There were several people who worked in the Twin Towers from Summit who were killed that day. Following the tragedy Rachel struggled to find a way to cope w/ the grief & utter sadness she was feeling. Many people become depressed or isolated. Instead Rachel decided to start running & train for a marathon. She says that in those months after 9/11 her aching heart & mind were slowly healed as she jogged around her neighborhood and processed the pain. Her family eventually moved to Houston & she continued to run but in 2013 Rachel found a training partner. Her daughter had been asking for a dog so Rachel researched breeds that would be conducive to running in warm weather. Everything she read said vizslas were the best option. They soon found Lucy who joins Rachel on most of her runs. Rachel says Lucy loves coming to Memorial Park & scouting out the rabbits. Then in 2015 Rachel’s cousin's husband was killed in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Once again she found herself looking for a way to process the grief in a positive way. She had a neighbor who worked at Bo’s Place which offers free support services to individuals who have lost loved ones. Rachel decided to volunteer & 3 yrs later she is still there. She works w/ the Tuesday trauma group. They meet every Tues for a meal & then break into groups. Rachel facilitates the mom’s group & helps them share their stories of heartache while establishing relationships w/ other moms who are experiencing similar pain. In the last 3 yrs Rachel has assisted many individuals who have come through Bo’s Place. They almost always enter with a deep sense of isolation & helplessness but by the end of the 9-wk program they have found other people who can relate to their pain & offer hope for healing. For the 2019 Aramco Half Marathon, Rachel has joined the Run for a Reason program and is raising money for Bo’s Place. The link to donate is in the comments below. Also, People of Memorial Park will donate 1/2 the proceeds from the sale of any books when you use the code RACHEL4BP at www.peopleofmemorialpark.com.
Brady @bradyg85 grew up in San Antonio and excelled at swimming as a kid. He swam in college, but when it finally ended, he missed the discipline of working out & competing. Then a friend from high school called to ask if he wanted to run a half marathon. Brady agreed but ended up racing alone because his friend was injured. In the last 5 yrs he has continued to run, but he always ran by himself until a few months ago. He laughs thinking about being confused the first time he came to Memorial Park. He says it was late at night and dark, and he ended up parking on the south side of Memorial Drive near the Picnic Loop. As he jogged around the paved 1.1 mi loop, he was occasionally passed by someone on a bike, and he kept wondering if he was in the right place. A few days later he returned to the Park when it was daylight and figured out that a 2.9 mi trail was across the street and was a much better option for training. He has also recently realized Houston has an incredible running community. Brady would often see thousands of people at the Park but had no idea that there were options for training groups or that anyone was connected beyond just being on the trail at the same time. Then he met Ryan @ryan_run_hou who invited him to a Race Pace Social Run, and Brady learned that he could race much faster if he followed a schedule. He also found a Bible study w/ his church, Hope City, that meets at the Becks Prime sign every Wednesday. He is now part of the Hope City Runners leadership group and is excited about the sweet group of believers who come to the Park every week, rain or shine. Growing up, Brady’s parents were a beautiful example of loving and serving those in need. They provided foster care for many children and their home was a safe haven for kids who needed a place to stay, even for an extended period of time. Their example inspired Brady to want to do the same. He recently signed up to be a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters and is now waiting to be matched w/ a Little. Brady says that just as the Houston running community has inspired him to run faster than he ever thought possible, he is excited to see what God will do with his service.
Before 2015 Aracely’s @correle_chely only experience with running was during select softball. It was used as a punishment…which meant she ran a lot since she was constantly in trouble. Even as an adult the thought of running brought feelings of disgust as she remembers jogging for hours because she was late to practice or wore the wrong uniform. In 2014 Aracely & her husband felt God calling her to homeschool their kids. The only problem was Aracely was terrified! She knew it was the right thing for their family but felt completely unqualified since she did not finish college. She begrudgingly agreed and struggled to figure out how to make it work. Then in 2015 a friend from college called to ask if she wanted to sign up for the 2016 Houston Marathon. Despite her bad memories from high school, Aracely found an online training plan & began running on her own around her neighborhood. She says that all of the sudden, she felt like a new person. There were many days when she would go for a run & think about homeschooling. Then-in the middle of a run-she would get an idea to make a lesson more exciting or easier to understand. She would burst through the front door after a workout & immediately start moving furniture or grabbing things from the kitchen to teach a new concept. After a few months of training, Aracely longed for her mom, Gladys @litaruns, to realize the same benefits she had gained. Gladys’ mom passed away from cancer in 2004. Over time the depression from the loss of her mom led to weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle. Gladys was not interested in running until she accompanied Aracely to the 2016 Houston Marathon Expo. She says she saw all of the cute outfits that were for sale but was frustrated that she could not fit in any of them. She agreed to start jogging & today she is also a new person. Her outlook on life improved and she has lost 50 lbs! Aracely has ran 3 Houston Marathons and is working on qualifying for Boston this year. Gladys has run 5 half marathons and says she may consider doing a full. Today they train with the Houston Harriers you will always see the mother-daughter duo together always smiling and running around Memorial Park.