Carrying (and Running) On After Tragedy
This heart-bearing post was written by our friend Leslie Stout, who works at Athleta in Indianapolis. We wish this brave and wonderful woman well as she carries on and honors her daughter.
The formal meaning of Kaitlyn is “pure.” Today’s Urban Dictionary adds”…beautiful, smart, funny, and can always make you smile.” Our Katie embodied all of these traits and so much more.
Katie had the brightest blue eyes, the cutest dimples, and a smile that lit up not only her whole face, but the entire room. To look at her, you would have never known that she was formally diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. Through early intervention and the dedication of her therapists and teachers, Katie made great strides in a very short amount of time. Tragically, her life was cut short at the age of 4 1/2, when she wandered out of the house and ended up drowning.
Quieting the Guilt and Carrying On
For the first two years after Katie passed, I had just enough strength to go through the motions every day. I could take care of our older daughter, but didn’t do much beyond that. I felt guilty having a good day, going out to do something fun, etc. As a result, I isolated myself and lived inside my head. It was very difficult trying to figure out how to have a “normal” life again since a part of my heart was missing. I put so much time and energy into Katie and dealing with her Autism that I felt lost and didn’t know what to do with myself.
Shortly before my 40th birthday, I woke up one day and decided I had to quiet the guilt that consumed me and start trying to live again. I started to convince myself that Katie would want me to live a happy and productive life. I still had a husband and daughter who deserved the best that I could be. It was on this day that I decided to become a runner.
Running was a good distraction for me. I felt better emotionally. I am a very competitive person, so it was with determination that I continued to run even when I started to feel intense pain. One day, I couldn’t even put my foot on the ground without pain. It turned out I fractured my knee. After taking time off to allow my knee to heal, I started running again. Shortly after, I had constant knee pain. I had torn my meniscus and had to have surgery. Once again, I was deterred in my attempts to become a runner.
My third attempt at becoming a runner has so far been successful. I’ve run numerous 5K races, a few 10Ks, and I will be running my first half marathon on November 1. Running has shown me I have the inner strength to tackle new things. I look forward to my runs, as they help me improve not only my physical fitness, but also my emotional fitness. I take Katie with me on my runs. I talk to her, and sometimes I cry over her. I like to think she is looking down on me, proud of what her mommy is accomplishing.
In Katie’s Memory, We Run
My husband and I have spent the past 5 1/2 years learning how to live without Katie. We have always had a desire to give back to the Autism community and keep Katie’s spirit alive. In her memory, the Katie Stout Foundation was created. What makes our foundation stand out from others is that 100% of the profits generated from our fundraisers will be distributed directly to families affected by Autism.
Our inaugural event is Katie’s Run for Autism, a 10K Run, 5K Run/Walk, and 2.5K Fun Run for kids. The event will take place on Sunday, Aug. 17, at 9 a.m., at Promise Road Elementary School in Noblesville.
To learn more about our Foundation, and/or register for the event, please visit www.katiestout.org.