A big part of my participation in the NYC marathon is fundraising for the American Cancer Society, so I want share a little more about why this cause is so close to my heart. I’ll be dedicating my race to my cousin Chris, who we lost to liver cancer in 2008. He was great with my sister and me: his playful nature made him a highlight of our family trips to England. He’d pull candies from behind our ears, teach us card tricks and chase us around the garden. We learned a lot from Chris, and though I can’t remember all of the cockney rhyming slang phrases he taught us, I will never forget his most important lesson: loving Arsenal Football Club.
Every Christmas and birthday we’d open our presents from Chris to find a variety of Arsenal paraphernalia: blankets, towels, sweaters. We never tracked a year without the help of an Arsenal desk calendar, and seldom went a day without seeing the Gunners logo somewhere in our house: on a blanket, a towel, or a bowl – you name it, we had it!
Though Chris is not the only Arsenal fan in my extended family, he is certainly the one that I credit for instilling in me a continued love for the club: I still feel as proud to wear my Arsenal colors today as I was nearly 20 years ago, sporting a red and white jersey big enough to be a dress. I think he’d be proud to know that despite having no children of his own, he was able to contribute 2 more Gunners fans to the world. Arsenal is part of my family now, and Chris’ legacy will survive for years to come: when I spend mornings crowded around the TV with my kids to watch the Gunners play, just as I have done with my parents countless times.
I wish that I’d had the chance to go to a game with Chris, or to take him to all of the Arsenal bars I have frequented over the last few years. That we could go to Maggie’s at the crack of dawn to be energized by the singing and chanting of a sea of red and white supporters, welcoming today’s squad to the pitch for a 6am kickoff. Or enjoy a specialty burger during a lunchtime game at Abbey Burger Bistro in Baltimore, or trek into NYC with the whole family to join the NYC Gooners at the Blind Pig or O’Hanlon’s.
So it is in his name that I raise these funds for the American Cancer Society – to support families affected by cancer, to research cures, and help patients fight off the same disease that took Chris from us too soon. When I gear up in my Arsenal kit on race day in November I will be carrying him with me, his presence supporting and inspiring me every step of the way. I’ll think of him when I finally cross the finish line and I’ll feel his love – for me and for Arsenal.