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2019 CPHA SCSU Advocacy Training

Covering Health in Connecticut
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Connecticut's Green Trails

Posted By Jon Noel, Friday, June 26, 2015

Connecticut has a lot of “trails” during tourist season.  There is the beer trail, the wine trail, and even a cheese trail.  But we shouldn’t forget about, you know, actual trails.  They ones where you can walk, hike, climb, and eventually reach the top of something.  Growing up, there were yearly trips to Sleeping Giant, Kent Park, Talcott Mountain, the trails around Gillette’s Castle, and the rocks at Meigs Point at Hammonasset.  Yes, it got hot.  Yes, it was tiring.  Yes, it takes some planning.  But it was always worth it.  So, here are some resources to help get you out and walking.

Connecticut’s Top 10 Hiking Trails

Don’t know where to go?  Here is a list of the best places for all skill levels and all distances.  Want to keep it short?  Head to the Mattabesett Trail.  Have a desire to spend the day outdoors?  Take advantage of the Devil's Den Preserve.

Connecticut Forest and Park Association Events

Ever been outside and seen something beautiful, but have absolutely no idea what it is?  Walk along with CFPA and learn about the birds and the bees from a whole new perspective.

Feeling Adventurous?

Let’s be honest.  Connecticut’s mountains aren’t all that impressive.  If want a better challenge and are willing to drive just a little out of the way, head to Mt. Greylock in northwest Massachusetts.  It’s the tallest mountain in MA and has gorgeous views on a clear day.  Be sure to stop and rest in the lodge at the peak.

Feeling Really Adventurous?

For those who want a challenge, head up to Mt. Washington.  A more than 1 vertical mile hike will tire even the best of us.  I wonder if you get a bumper sticker when you reach the top?

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School's Out, Summer Meals Are In

Posted By Julie Risinit, Friday, June 19, 2015
Updated: Friday, June 19, 2015

You can help to spread the word about free meals for kids and teens this summer.

End Hunger Connecticut is sponsoring Summer Meal Outreach Blitz Days in a town near you soon. Volunteers are needed to go door to door to let residents know about the free meals available for kids and teens 18 years of age and younger this summer. The meals are funded through federal programs such as the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program.

The Summer Meal Blitz Days reach all corners of Connecticut:

New Haven

Saturday, June 20, 12:30-4:00 PM, Goffe Street Park

Thompson/North Grosvenordale

Monday, June 22, 1:00-4:00 PM, Riverside Park

Stamford

Tuesday, June 23, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM, Boys and Girls Club, 347 Stillwater Ave.

Windsor

Wednesday, June 24, 12:00 PM-4:00 PM, Goslee Park

Hartford

Thursday, June 25, 11:00 AM-2:00 PM, Camp Field Library, 30 Campfield Ave.

Plainville

Friday, June 26, 12:30-3:00 PM, Norton Park Bandshell

If you can’t make it to one of the Blitz Day events, you can help by spreading the word online or through your organization. To learn how, see www.ctsummerfood.org.

Free summer meals for kids and teens are served at many locations throughout the state. For example, New Haven plans more than 60 meal sites this summer. The End Hunger Connecticut website has a handy location finder that will be updated soon: http://www.ctsummerfood.org/location-finder. A look at last year’s locations showed meal sites everywhere from Greenwich to Groton, and from Danbury to Dayville.

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Where You Live Determines How Healthy You Are

Posted By Fred Musante, Friday, June 19, 2015

    More than anything else in Connecticut, where you live determines how healthy you and your family are. Location is the most important factor.

    Although this may be a comfort to many state residents who are fortunate enough to live in favorable locations, it is also a substantial source of preventable illness that will cause higher taxes and health insurance costs for all state residents in years to come.

    Some neighborhoods are very healthy places. They have lower than average rates of every chronic disease. Other neighborhoods are just the opposite. The people who live there have higher than average rates of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke.

But aren’t these diseases mostly caused by behavior, diet or genetics?

    It is true those may also be factors, but public health research has shown that zoning and economic development decision-making on the local level is the most important cause, at least in Connecticut. Restrictive zoning limits the housing opportunities for lower-income families. Comparisons of lower-income and high-income neighborhoods indicate higher incidence of obesity and chronic diseases in the poorer areas.

    But low-income people aren’t the only ones negatively affected by these planning and zoning decisions. Outdated, post-World War Two suburban sprawl created inefficient bedroom communities by sucking the economic vitality out of the central cities. It’s no surprise that suburban residential streets don’t have sidewalks. They are designed for motor vehicles. Public health research has linked sprawl and obesity. The more sprawl, the higher the BMI scores.

    Income inequality also plays into this. It is calculated using a statistical tool known as the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality in a frequency distribution. Confused? It boils down to this: the higher the Gini score, the greater the inequality. Where income inequality is concerned, Connecticut has a higher Gini score than all other states except for New York and Washington DC.

    Forbes Magazine lists Connecticut as the second richest state, but its income inequality creates sharp social and economic contrasts. Pockets of poverty exist where chronic disease prevalence is very high, compared with wealthier, and healthier, geographic areas only a few miles away.

    Research by the state Department of Public Health shows the effects of concentrating poor families in a few areas. When epidemiologists prepared Connecticut map overlays showing census tracts, they showed that high prevalence rates of chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke) occurred only in neighborhoods with high density minority populations and high density low-income populations.

    The good news is Connecticut was ranked as the 4th healthiest state by the United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report for 2014. The bad news is we still have a number of challenges related to chronic diseases. Furthermore, populations defined by race and ethnicity, age, poverty and associated factors bear a disproportional burden for those illnesses.

    Land-use policies have geographically concentrated those populations in urban areas where air pollution, traffic congestion, crime, and stress are higher, and where access to recreation and stores selling fresh fruit and vegetables are lower. This increases those residents’ risk for chronic diseases.

Moreover, the long history of post-war suburbanization has stripped those urban areas of their tax base, depriving them of the economic resources needed to address problems associated with concentrated poverty.

    Connecticut has spent billions of taxpayer dollars for Educational Cost Sharing grants and economic development programs without successfully balancing these inequities. Now add the health costs, which are already substantial and will rise in the future.

    State taxpayers pay millions of dollars each year for health education programs aimed at getting residents to adopt healthier lifestyles and more nutritional diets. At the same time, their local elected and appointed officials adopt land-use policies that make it more difficult for the most vulnerable, highest-risk residents to follow recommendations to get more physical exercise and to eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

    Not only does this make no sense on a rational annual budgetary basis, it also makes taxpayers liable for billions of dollars, perhaps even trillions of dollars, in future Medicaid and Medicare spending.

I don’t think land-use decision-makers set out to raise taxes. In fact, their intention might be just the opposite, to save costs on a local level by, for example, keeping out families with children who would add to their local education budgets.

    But while they are focused on the trees, they have lost sight of the forest. Their “good intentions” will have negative unintended fiscal consequences, in addition to the moral problem of neglecting the public health risks of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

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Jeanette Ickovics - the 2015 C-E.A. Winslow Award Recipient

Posted By Fred Musante, Thursday, June 11, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    Jeannette Ickovics of Yale University is this year’s recipient of the C-E.A. Winslow Award, the most prestigious honor conveyed each year by the Connecticut Public Health Association.

    The award is named for Charles-Edward A. Winslow, one of the most important figures in the history of public health. It recognizes a public health professional that has demonstrated leadership and achievement in practice, research and/or education.

    Winslow’s 1920 definition of public health is still taught to all students in the field nearly a century later. Go ahead and try to remember it; we’ll add it at the end to see how well you did.

    Jeannette Ickovics is one of Connecticut’s public health leaders and has distinguished herself in a number of ways, each one which could have justified her receiving this award. It would not be superficial to compare her accomplishments to those of the award’s namesake.

    At the CPHA awards breakfast on May 29 at the Lyceum in Hartford, Ickovics was introduced by Elaine Anderson, a former CPHA president, the 2003Winslow Award recipient, and a retired Yale University colleague of this year’s recipient.

    Ickovics is a professor of chronic disease epidemiology and psychology, and the founding director of the Social and Behavior Sciences program at Yale. In addition, she is the director of the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) at Yale, and the deputy director and director of training for the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS.

    Winslow, of course, was the founder of the Yale Department of Public Health, and helped write the legislation to establish the Connecticut State Health Department. He also served as president and co-founder for both the American Public Health Association and the CPHA.

    Anderson noted that she found it “particularly appropriate” to give Ickovics the Winslow Award as Yale celebrates the 100th anniversary of the establishment of its Public Health school. As Winslow before her, Anderson said Ickovics “sees involvement in practice as the means of clarifying the relevance of teaching and research.”

    Her interest and accomplishments in professional development, multi-disciplinary research, policy development, and the improvement of individual and community health status mirror those of the award’s namesake, Anderson noted.

    She pointed out that Ickovics’ community-based research has been funded by more than $25 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and private foundations; that she is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, and that she is the recipient of numerous other prestigious awards for her public health work.

    Speaking to the CPHA awards breakfast gathering, which included numerous other association past presidents and Winslow Award winners, Ickovics said she was humbled to be a recipient herself.

    Ickovics is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and quoted Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel’s enjoinder to take sides on behalf of the weak, because neutrality only helps the oppressor, never the victim.

    “I believe that public health and social justice go hand in hand every day,” she said.

She called on public health professionals to be engaged in creating the political will to improve conditions for all people. Imagine a world, she said, in which the resources for health were accessible for all.

    “I’d like to believe that there is so much more to do to achieve [Winslow’s] ideals,” she said.

And Winslow’s ideals were expressed well in his famous definition of public health: “The science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health and efficiency through organized community effort.”

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Jon Noel - the 2015 Micheal J. Perlin Student Award Recipient

Posted By Melissa Touma, Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Updated: Friday, June 5, 2015

    Jonathan Noel, the 2015 recipient of the CPHA’s Michael J. Perlin Student Award, admits he finds it impossible to say no whenever the association needs his help.

    The annual award, named for a professor of public health at Southern Connecticut State University who died in 2011, recognizes a graduate student or undergraduate student in an accredited public health at a Connecticut college or university who through student activities or community service demonstrates a commitment to leadership, volunteerism and high education standards.

Readers of this blog know him from his commentaries that are often published here.

    At the awards breakfast on May 29 at the Lyceum in Hartford, Jon said he felt honored to have been able to work with so many dedicated people who have advanced the public health profession through their work with CPHA.

    Yet few have shown as much of that dedication as Jon has himself.

    He was introduced for the Perlin Award by CPHA past president Kathi Traugh, who was a former student of Professor Perlin’s. “I know that he would be so proud to know someone of Jon’s caliber was receiving this award,” she said.

    Her introduction indicated what Jon means when he says he doesn’t heed his own advice. Kathi said she met Jon when she served as co-chair of the CPHA Annual Meeting Program Committee in 2008. Jon helped with its planning and program evaluation, and had served on the committee since 2006.

    She said Jon has volunteered in various capacities for CPHA, worked with every one of its committees, and played a role in in all of the organization’s major advances for nearly a decade. He developed and maintained CPHA’s web site, built its membership database, managed its communications and established its social media presence.

    Kathi said she came to rely on him so much during her three years as CPHA president that she referred to him as Saint Jon.

    Jon, who will be 30 in June, will not be the youngest-ever president of CPHA. He said the current president, Brittany Allen, is actually younger.

    He was originally in pre-med and trained as an EMT, but once he started riding ambulances he found it wasn’t what he expected. A random email to the Connecticut Department of Public Health secured him an internship working on tracking the H5N1 flu a few years ago and soon he was hooked.

Jon is now a doctoral candidate in public health at the University of Connecticut, on track to receive his degree in 2017.

    His research focus is on how addictive products are developed and marketed.

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Stephen Updegrove - the 2015 Charles G Huntington III Award Recipient

Posted By Fred Musante, Sunday, June 7, 2015
Updated: Friday, June 5, 2015

    This year’s recipient of the CPHA’s Charles G. Huntington III Award is Dr. Stephen Updegrove, who serves as chief medical advisor for the New Haven Public Schools.

    The annual award is named for a past CPHA president and associate dean and professor of the University of Connecticut medical school, who was known as a strong advocate for public health in Connecticut up to his death in 2009. The Huntington Award recognizes a Connecticut health care practitioner who has demonstrated public health leadership and a commitment to the health and well-being of populations.

    A pediatrician by training, Dr. Updegrove has embodied the spirit of the award by serving as a leader of community health centers for the medically underserved in Connecticut, as a member of numerous boards and commissions on health issues, and as a volunteer physician for displaced refugees in Thailand.

    Dr. Updegrove is well-known as an advocate for universal childhood vaccinations, and has worked for many years to make sure vaccines are available to all children regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances.

    He was introduced at CPHA’s awards breakfast on May 29 in Hartford by Connecticut State Epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter.

    Dr. Cartter noted some of the prominent roles Dr. Updegrove has filled for the state’s childhood vaccination program:

  • Member of the CT Immunization Advisory Council in 1993, representing the Association of Primary Health Care Providers, to advise the Department of Public Health on the state childhood immunization program.

  • Advisor to the Commission on Children, the CT Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the legislature, to help expand the state’s universal childhood vaccine program and provide vaccines to all children regardless of insurance status.

  • Chairperson of the Connecticut Vaccine Advisory Committee, advocating policies and best practices for childhood immunizations in the state.

    While serving as the medical director of the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, a community health center in New Haven, he went back to school and received his MPH from the University of Connecticut in order to acquire medical administration skills and learn more about the social determinants of health.

    “A lot of things that predispose our health outcomes correlate with other factors such as socioeconomic status,” Dr. Updegrove said in an interview. Some others, for example, are our social contacts, social isolation, and cultural beliefs.

He said understanding how those factors affect us helps explain why people have the health status they do and how to improve them.

    At the CPHA awards ceremony, Dr. Updegrove said he thought of himself as a person who owed his professional success to being born with extraordinary advantages. Because of that, people like himself have a greater obligation to serve the public good, he said.

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Chris Willems - the 2015 Ira V. Hiscock Award Recipient

Posted By Fred Musante, Friday, June 5, 2015

    Chris Willems said public health is an ideal subject for high school students because it combines theory, communications and emerging health issues.

    Willems, a science teacher at the Metropolitan Business Academy (MBA), an interdistrict magnet high school in New Haven, who teaches America’s first high school course in public health, is this year’s recipient of the Ira V. Hiscock Award from the CPHA.

    He said students have responded enthusiastically to his course. “Enrollment is strong, so we plan to keep offering it.”

    In fact, one of his former students has switched majors from nursing to public health at Southern Connecticut State University, and told him his public health course influenced her decision.

    On June 6, his students will bring what they have learned to Hartford to interact with other Connecticut high school students who have taken specialized courses developed by the Education Connection, based in Litchfield.

    The course at MBA was the idea of Jane Donn, program coordinator at the Education Connection, which develops courses to meet the needs of students in local school districts. Cyndi Billian Stern of CPHA wrote the course, and Willems was recruited to teach it.

    At the CPHA awards breakfast on May 29 at the Lyceum in Hartford, Willems said it was an honor to receive the award. “I’m blown away by all the support I receive and all the wonderful things that you do,” he told the gathered CPHA members.

    The Ira V. Hiscock Award is presented annually to a Connecticut layperson or organization that made notable contributions to the advancement of public health through public service, education, advocacy and/or leadership. It is named for an internationally recognized epidemiologist and public health professional at Yale University.

    Willems has been teaching biology and other science curricula for 20 years, 17 of them in New Haven. In 2011, he was named an Outstanding Biology Teacher by the National Association of Biology Teachers, and in 2014 he received the Robert T. Yeager Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Science Teachers Association.

    This year was his third year teaching the course, known as Public Health 101.

    He was introduced at the awards breakfast by Stern, who called him “an early adopter of both experiential and blended learning.” Although he had no formal public health training, Stern said it was clear from his enthusiasm and preparation that he was the ideal candidate.

Willems invited CPHA members to go recall their teenage years and think of something interesting that happened to them. Then he asked how many thought of something that happened in school. Nobody raised their hand.

    “I firmly believe that learning is in the doing,” he said, and he hoped that if he comes back to a CPHA meeting years from now, more people will remember something interesting that happened to them in school.

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CT FastTrak on the Right Track

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Connecticut is not a public transportation state.  We have no subways or light rails, the buses aren’t great, and unless you travel to New York City, the trains aren’t much of a help.  But we are a commuter state, and as anyone traveling through Hartford during rush hour can attest, driving through that city at the wrong time stinks (Of course, that assumes there is a right time). 

Despite this, Gov. Malloy got approval for CT FastTrak, a dedicated busway designed to bring from the suburbs into Hartford (Personally, I think he got stuck in traffic too many times).  If you have ever used public transportation to get to work, you know it is a blessing and a curse, and there are plenty of curses that go along with CT Fastrak.  It cost too much (~$570 million).  It too long to build (just under 3 years).  No one will ever use it (well…).  It’ll never make any money (wait a second…).

Let’s start with ridership.  In the first 5 weeks of operation, over 7,000 riders a day were using the system.  There are certainly more than 7,000 commuters driving into Hartford every day, but for a state that does not use, let alone rely, on public transportation, this is a huge number.  7,000 people a day?  There are 50 towns in Connecticut with fewer than 7,000 people.  50.  So on this one, let’s call ridership numbers an early success.

Now, let’s move to money.  Figuring out if CT Fastrak will break even is pretty tricky, and we’ll have to make some assumptions.  Let’s saw there are 7,000 riders a day and the average commuter pays $6 ($3 each way).  Under this scenario, CT FastTrak makes $42,000 a day, $210,000 a week, or $10,920,000 a year on fares alone.  Now, if Connecticut was on the hook for the whole bill, it would take about 52 years to pay off the constructions costs.  Thankfully, we are not.  We are on the hook for only about $170 million, meaning we can pay off the construction costs in fares alone in less than 16 years.  Considering the massive debt the MBTA in Boston (~$8 billion) and the MTA in New York City (~$34 billion) has, I think we are doing ok.

CT Fastrak doesn’t just earn money.  It also saves us money elsewhere.  For the person using the system, less driving into work means less money spent on gas and less wear and tear on the car.  I used public transportation every day when I worked in Boston.  I bought gas once a month and had an oil change once a year.  Now that I have to drive into work?  I buy gas once a week and have at least 4 oil changes per year.  Trust me, the difference is noticeable.  For the person who either chooses to, or has to, drive into Hartford, less cars on the road means quicker travel times and better fuel mileage. 

Even if you don’t work in Hartford, you will still benefit from less pollution caused from car emissions.  How so?  Well, less pollution means better air.  Better air means less heart attacks and less asthma and less death.  That means less healthcare costs overall and smaller healthcare premiums for those with private insurance and smaller tax burdens supporting those who rely on Medicaid down in the future.

CT FastTrak has finally been put into service.  Let’s make sure it is a success.

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Ending “Pay Secrecy” to Reduce Gender Income Inequality

Posted By Jenna Lupi, Monday, April 20, 2015

April 14- the day before your taxes were due- also marked a significant and discouraging day for women.  “Equal Pay Day” represents how far into the new year a woman would have to work to earn what her male counterpart earned the previous year.  According to the White House, women earn on average 78% of men’s average salaries.

In Pittsburgh, pop-up-shop owner Elana Schlenker is raising awareness about the pay gap by charging women 76% of each retail dollar she charges men (women in Pennsylvania earn 76% of men’s earnings).  She plans to take her shop on the road and adapt her prices to reflect each state’s pay gap.  A similar approach was taken recently by a group of students at Jordan High School in Utah who charged girls 77 cents for items at their bake sales while they charged boys one dollar.

So what is Connecticut doing to address the pay gap?  In 2013, Governor Dannel Malloy created the Gender Wage Gap Task Force which released a series of recommendations to bridge the gap.  One of these recommendations was to stop the practice of “pay secrecy.”  The Task Force found that one of the best ways to address the problem of equal pay is to allow for open discussions about wages in the workplace.

Legislation was introduced by Governor Malloy in the current legislative session to prevent “pay secrecy” in the workplace.  While the bill does not require workers to disclose wage information, it does prohibit rules that prevent employees from sharing that information.  House Bill 6850, An Act Concerning Pay Equity and Fairness, was unanimously approved by the Labor and Public Employment Committee and is currently pending on the House calendar.

On the national level, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help close the gap by enforcing key provisions of the 1963 Equal Pay Act.  Some of the provisions include that employers demonstrate that wage differentials are based on factors other than sex and that retaliation against workers who inquire about wage practices or disclose their own wages is prohibited.

As women are often the drivers of positive health changes in their communities, bridging the pay gap is crucial to fully empowering and enabling women to lead the way in reducing health disparities across the state.

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Experiencing the Boston Marathon First Hand

Posted By Paola Chanes-Mora, Monday, April 20, 2015

26.2 bumper stickers were on almost every car. The treasured and prestigious Boston Marathon jackets could be seen through the car windows; being worn proudly. We were all stuck in traffic in our individual cars, but knew we were not alone. The comradery could be felt even in the traffic driving up to Boston from Connecticut days before the 2013 Boston Marathon. The excitement, anxiety, and fear could be seen in the runners face. A smile, a nod, a wave, a simple gesture reminded us that we were all in this together. Running, and especially marathon running, is seen by many as an individualistic sport. However, it is far from it. Many runners train in teams and push each other through, rain, slush and sleet, in the almost 1000 miles that it takes to train for a marathon. Even those who train alone, finish together. Somewhere along the 26.2 mile journey we rely on the support of each other; when we cramp up and someone helps us stretch, or hands us their Gatorade. Or when he hit that point when our body is yelling at us to stop and a fellow runner who we have never met before, stops and gives encouraging words that help find that inner most strength that helps us get to the finish line. All of this and more came to life during the tragic day of April 15, 2013. It didn’t matter where on the course you were when the bombs exploded, someone reached out to help. I was running with the Tufts Marathon Team, the largest known collegiate marathon program in the United States. However, when the bombs exploded I found myself in a fog, searching for any of teammates, none which I could find. I had run almost 26 miles and was close to the finish line. I was exhausted, panicking, thinking about my coach and partner who were waiting for me at the finish line.

Looking back now, I realize the media covered Boylston’s street and the many heroic people who reacted quickly and saved many lives. However, there was also valor, solidarity, and many heroes one street over on Commonwealth Avenue where most of the runners who didn’t finish were sectioned off to. The media did not show this. Runners who had finished before the bombings came out and gave us their blankets, shared their water, gave us their shirts, jackets, sweat pants, bananas, anything they had to provide some comfort. Many other runners who were with me when the bombs went off offered their cellphones, a hug, and a helping hand when my legs gave under me and I fell. Residents of Commonwealth Avenue opened their homes to us to use the bathroom and get water. I was fortunate enough that a complete stranger who saw me in panic stayed with me until I was able to be reunited with my partner hours later.

Exactly, one year later I found myself in that same traffic heading up to Boston a few days before the marathon. The 26.2 bumper stickers were still there, but now a yellow and blue ribbon magnet was next to it. This blue and yellow ribbon became an emblem of love, courage, unity and kindness to remind us of that tragic day and bring us even closer. Cars had “Boston stands as one,” written on their windows, the Boston Marathon jackets were still proudly worn, but this time there was less fear and anxiety in people’s faces. Determination, pride, and fearlessness were the new feelings. The 35,000 of us running the 2014 Boston Marathon knew we were closer than ever before and we knew we stood as one. Tears filled my eyes as I embarked on a new journey to heal, process and finish what I had started a year before. The crowds were bigger and louder, the pats in the back from others runners were more frequent and the high fives from the children were nonstop. I chose not to care about my time. I enjoyed my journey and smiled, laughed and met hundreds of new runners. This coming year, I will not be running. I will be a spectator. I will stand on the side lines cheering on the many thousands who took on this challenge. I will never forget the horror of that day, but I always remember the comradery. At the end, no matter how many years go by we will continue to stand as one.

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