It has been 6 months since I successfully crossed the ocean on a paddle board from Bimini to Lake Worth, 82.3 miles with the Crossing For Cystic Fibrosis for the Piper’s Angels Foundation. I am one of a small collective that can claim and proudly wear the title of Iron Crusader- someone who successfully crosses the full 82.3 miles and never gets off their paddle board for any reason at any time.
Shortly after completing this monumental feat, I received my Iron Crusader Coin. And I haven’t put it down since I got it. It’s hard to put into words what this coin means to me, and why… but I am going to try.
Make no mistake, while the physical feat of completing a 82 mile paddle across the ocean is a badge of honor I wear proudly, it pales by comparison to the deeper heart of what this crossing has meant to me. It has impacted me in ways I never could have imagined.
I am often asked, “Why? Why would you do that?” My first response is always, “Why not?” But that answer is always followed by, “Because I can while others can’t. Because I never knew that anything beyond motherhood could fill my soul the way paddling across the ocean for this reason does.”
Being a mother is the one thing I have done with my life that I have known, without any doubt or questions, that I was meant to do and be. I have given the role of being Jonah and Abby’s mom every fibre of my being and every piece of my soul. The rewards are endless… and so are the challenges, in all honesty. But outside of motherhood, I have really struggled to find my place in the world. I have grappled with my career path, what I was meant to do, what I was good at, and so forth. I was not one of those people that knew from an early age what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I often envied those who knew with conviction what their path looked like; all they had to do was execute it. My own path has been winding and unpredictable, with so many experiences that have shaped me-- both for the better and for the not so better.
I have learned, it all comes down to the pursuit of purpose. And here’s why.
The desire for purpose brings me back to the Crusader Coin- and its significance. I have several medals from half-marathons that I have run, as well as from Spartan races and other such activities that I participated in over the years. We all love a little recognition for completing something challenging… but those have long been tucked away in a drawer, where they will continue to collect dust.
The Iron Crusader Coin is different. It is one of the most meaningful things I have ever received. And of course, the recognition for achieving something so few have ever accomplished (or ever will!) is satisfying on so many levels.
But as I marvel at the coin in my hand, I am struck by what it truly represents. It represents a major shift in my life. It represents a commitment to do something for the Cystic Fibrosis community- and particularly for those who can’t. It represents what is possible. It represents community. It represents love. It represents a commitment to something greater than myself. It represents the gift of making an impact in the lives of those around me…. something that I continue to be humbled by.
It represents never giving up, no matter how hard the struggle. It represents an experience with my daughter that will forever and always be one of the best we share. It represents the most incredible group of humans that I have ever met, who have embraced me and made me a part of their family.
When I look at the coin, I am reminded that there is nothing I can’t do if I want it badly enough. I am reminded that there was a massive community of people around me that supported my efforts and my campaign through donations, earning me an elite title as one of the top individual fundraisers in the event. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to discover how many people believed in me. These people wanted to be a part of making a real difference in the lives of those who are fighting a battle every day for something most of us take for granted: the simple act of breathing with ease.
It represents Travis, the most incredible human and father to Piper, who created this organization and this event-- not just to support and elevate his own daughter who struggles with Cystic Fibrosis, but the entire CF Community. He created, along with so many other incredible humans (too many to name), a space and place for ordinary people to do and be something extraordinary. To discover something about themselves they didn’t know existed that would change us all forever.
This coin is so much more than a piece of metal. It is a constant reminder that the only limits to what I can do are the ones I put on myself. It is a reminder of all the Cystic Fibrosis Warriors who fight each day for their lives, and yet do not define themselves by their illness. They live every day with gratitude, strength, and grace. They are a light for all of us to see that nothing should be taken for granted, to make the most of every opportunity we are given, to be the best version of ourselves, and to be compassionate to everyone around us.
I am a two time Crossing Crusader. I am a one-time Iron Crusader. Both times I learned things about myself that I continue to carry with me. Every time I embark on this adventure, I learn new lessons that shape me in ways I couldn’t have imagined and that have given me more than I could ever give back to this incredible organization, this community, this family I have found. There are no truer words than those of our fearless leader Travis when he says, “The ocean is a masterful teacher.” I will cross again this year, my third crossing, in what will be the 10-year anniversary of the Crossing for CF.
I will hold on to my coin and carry it with me each day to remember the joy and fulfillment that comes from being a part of something so EPIC. I will constantly remember to be bold in the face of fear and to inspire every breath. These are the words that define and represent the Crossing for CF and the Piper’s Angels Foundation. What is so remarkable about the crossing is that it is so much more than an endurance battle across the ocean. The paddle itself is, ironically, the least significant aspect of the event. It is everything you do, everyone you speak to, every minute leading up to that launch off the beach in Bimini that is truly the Crossing.
For me, the crossing is where I discovered myself, my purpose, my potential. It is where I find meaning. It is where I find connection. It is where I found friends who have become my family. You don’t need to take on this degree of physical challenge to discover your “crossing.” But as someone who learned much younger than I would have liked, life really is too short.
You will be amazed at the difference you can make with passion and purpose in your heart. So make the most of what you have to offer! Find what makes you want to be the best version of yourself. Find your tribe, your Crossing. And be prepared to find it in unexpected places! Let this new year be the year of openness and curiosity- and you just may find what you’re looking for.
If we aren’t yet connected, please use the links at the top of this article to connect with me on social media so that you can follow my journey to see the incredible work that Piper’s Angels Foundation does for CF warriors and their families. And if you feel inspired to be a part of real change, you can support my third crossing by donating to my campaign.