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Born To Run – Live To Give

the Silver Strider onlinpresents

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          Born to Run, Live to Give – the Story Continues

 

 

 

 

By Karen Lichtenstein
Photos by team members and friends

 

Our Silver Strider team went to Vietnam in August on a mission to build connections and as Dennis would say “make smiles.” Our team members included Dennis Zaborac, Huong Delabar, Jim Magana, Audrey Kirkwood, Andrea Kirkwood, Sandy Madden, Susan Russell Hall, and Karen Lichtenstein.

The morning following our arrival, four of our team members met with race directors and representatives of the charities involved. Sandra Madden (center), Dennis Zaborac (green shirt), Andrea Kirkwood (4th from right), and Audrey Kirkwood (2nd from right).

Every person on our team added special talents and gifts to help demonstrate our good intentions through good deeds. This trip helped me understand the Vietnamese culture which recognizes the importance of community and connections. We were viewed as a team working together.

On Saturday morning in Danang, Dennis arranged for a van to take us to a waterfall in a remote area, and we had a chance to visit some small villages. As we drove along the road, we saw an ostrich standing beside the road. We did not know if it was the only one in Vietnam. It turns out that there are many ostriches throughout Vietnam. They are raised for food, and some ostrich farms offer ostrich rides. Maybe next year we can add that to our list of activities.

Andrea and Audrey Kirkwood visit Thac Grang Falls.

At the end of the road, we walked to the waterfall.

There was an old woman sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Huong sat by the woman and talked to her for a while. When I joined them, Huong explained that the woman was 100 years old. We gave the woman an envelope with the equivalent of $25 in it. The woman told Huong that she had seen money before, but she had never seen a note for so much money. Imagine living for 100 years and never seeing even $25. In the remote villages, people do not use much cash because they grow the food they need and rely on barter for many goods.

On our drive we had passed some small villages, and we saw a number of suspension bridges crossing the river. We stopped by one of the bridges on our way back to Danang. Audrey and Andrea had created lots of backpacks full of school supplies and toys for children. Audrey gave the first bag to a small boy on our side of the river. We could see more houses on the other side so we crossed the bridge on foot, then Dennis and Jim went into the village to see if they could find some children. We returned to the van and waited.

Suddenly, we saw Dennis running across the bridge but we could not see what was chasing him at first. He was smiling and there were dozens of children running behind him.

We quickly handed out the backpacks to every child as each one arrived. Dennis has a unique talent. No one else could have instantly charmed the children and led them across the bridge. He could not see their faces, but they were delighted just to chase the “giant” across the bridge. The wonderful yellow backpacks with toys were an unexpected bonus.

Going home with their backpacks

On Sunday, our races started very early in the morning so we were racing as the sun came up. The weather was incredibly hot, but there was plenty of bottled water along the race course so we could stay hydrated. Just like last year, we all signed up for two races. Our purpose was to encourage children and the handicapped to participate and experience the joy of exercise.

 

We signed up for the 5k race to help push people in wheelchairs so they could join the race.

Jim was the winner of the wheelchair pushing contest, and I came in last because I was pushing the biggest, heaviest wheelchair participant. I learned later that he was the gold medal winner in table tennis at the Paralympics.

Dennis sponsored children from the orphanage. victims of Agent Orange, and disabled people. Each sponsored participant received a purple visor with “Born to Run” Danang at the top and “Vietnam” “America” printed on two running shoes below.

Following the race, we visited the Village of Hope orphanage. The white haired man on the left is Nyugen Long, formerMayor of DaNang and administrator of 5 different orphanages. We visited 3 orphanages during our visit including the Fifth House orphanage.

The children waited in an orderly fashion to receive their cakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, we took a trip to the Sun World Ba Na Hills. We rode a cable car to reach Ba Na Hills, and the cable car has 4 world records. It is the world’s longest cable car system, and it was built by a Swiss company. It is a truly spectacular ride over dense jungle and waterfalls. At the top of the mountain, you can see all the way to the beach in Danang.

 

World’s longest cable car system

Audrey keeps her cool

 

 

 

We had time to walk on an amazing Golden Hand bridge that is held up by giant hands. Lunch was a delicious buffet. Unfortunately, in the afternoon Sandy received a message from Dennis that he was in a remote village with no way to get back to Danang until Tuesday. He had taken a train to the village, but he did nor realize the return trip was not until the next day. Everyone looked worried and concerned.

I wanted to do something to lighten the mood so I showed them my impression of Dennis as the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. I did a short version of Ray Bolger’s dance, and everyone cracked up. It is now known as the “Dennis Dance.” That night, Dennis made it back safely to Danang, and he told us that he simply followed the yellow brick road. Dennis even had a picture of the sidewalk through an open field. Just like the Scarecrow, Dennis is a trusting soul and events seem to work out for him no matter what challenges he faces.

When we were talking about our return trip, we joked about the dogs that sniff the luggage. The poor dogs would have to sniff our dirty socks. I was surprised when Susan and I were standing by the luggage carrousel, and one of the bomb sniffing dogs made a beeline for Susan’s luggage. It turns out that the dogs are trained to smell food, and he found the two tiny chocolate chip cookies that Susan brought back for Dale. No, the dog did not get to eat the cookies. The cookies were approved, and Dale was happy to get them.

 

                                     Random Photos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An added note from Dennis Zaborac

I would like to personally thank all the Silver Striders who have supported me the last few years in my efforts to help the handicapped and the orphans of Danang. I especially want to thank the Silver Strider team that went with me this year.

With more charities and more runners each year, (3500 in the 5K this year,) the race has outgrown my ability to interact directly with everyone I wish to help. With the support of Karen, Susie, Sandy, Huong, Jim ,Audrey and her daughter Andrea, this year’s trip was the most successful yet. We sponsored 175 runners from 6 charities and brought smiles to the faces of countless Vietnamese all across Danang.

The Silver Striders are now considered an integral part of the Danang Marathon. Our efforts in charity support, and running encouragement have captured the attention of city officials, the race director and the media. Our return each year is eagerly awaited.

No news’ article on the race, in Vietnamese or in English, goes to print without mentioning that “the Silver Strider Club from the US also took part in the race to promote a healthy lifestyle and to represent older runners and walkers.”

So to all of you Striders, on behalf of those we have helped in Danang. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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