“The big­gest thing is for kids and adults to hear that THERE IS HOPE… I want peo­ple to know that change can and does hap­pen.”


Canadian Running - - EXOTIC DESTINATION -

OOn May 31, 2015, 17 years af­ter fin­ish­ing in first place, Cross Child once again crossed the fin­ish line of the Saskatchewan Marathon. It was a vic­tory un­de­fin­able by a time on a clock, or a place on a podium stand­ing. “When I crossed that fin­ish line, I knew it was the start of a whole new life,” re­calls Cross Child, his fin­isher’s medal pre­sented to him by Ce­leste, who also ran in the marathon that day. In the months fol­low­ing the Saskatchewan Marathon, Cross Child worked to re­pair his re­la­tion­ships, re­built his tiling busi­ness and he and Ce­leste be­gan run­ning with a group of com­pet­i­tive run­ners in Saska­toon. Coach Ja­son War­ick, who was one of Canada’s top long dis­tance run­ners in his prime, has been work­ing with the cou­ple for more than two years now. And as much as he’s guided them, he notes the im­pact they have had had on his life.

“Part of it is about run­ning, but most of it is about be­ing hon­oured to know Ce­leste and Tar­rant as peo­ple and to see what they have over­come,” says War­ick, who is mar­ried and has two young chil­dren of his own.

“They’re both mod­els of over­com­ing ob­sta­cles and per­se­ver­ance, which is in­cred­i­ble,” War­ick says. “What Tar­rant came through is amaz­ing, but what Ce­leste did to hold their fam­ily and their mar­riage to­gether is some­thing that has helped me – to see an ex­am­ple of these rock solid re­la­tion­ships that can with­stand things that most peo­ple wouldn’t think.”

The Cross Childs’ story has proven to be one of con­tin­u­ous in­spi­ra­tion, not only to those who know them well, but to the thou­sands of chil­dren they have reached through their run­ning clin­ics.

Chil­dren of the Cross Run­ning Clin­ics, as it is now called, was born out of Cross Child’s de­sire to share his pas­sion for run­ning and its trans­for­ma­tional power with oth­ers who are strug­gling with men­tal health is­sues and with youth at high risk, par­tic­u­larly in North­ern Saskatchewan.

Last year, Cana­di­ans took no­tice of this of­ten-over­looked part of the coun­try. First, af­ter the school shoot­ings in La Loche in Jan­uary, which took four lives. Then again later in the year when six young girls in north­ern com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­ted sui­cide within weeks of one an­other. The alarm­ing news brought at­ten­tion to the on­go­ing chal­lenges many of these com­mu­ni­ties face with men­tal health is­sues and the sub­se­quent de­struc­tive be­hav­iours. This is when Cross Child felt the pull to be­gin shar­ing his story.

“From my own ex­pe­ri­ence of deal­ing with ad­dic­tions and com­ing through it, I needed to share. I needed them to know there is hope and restora­tion is pos­si­ble,” says Cross Child. “I needed to share my life story and needed to share my pas­sion of run­ning.”

A con­nec­tion to Aaron Fosseneuve, a vice-prin­ci­pal at Charlebois Com­mu­nity School in the north­east­ern com­mu­nity of Cum­ber­land House, led Cross Child to his first go at shar­ing his story and his love of run­ning with stu­dents, rang­ing from pre-kinder­garten to Grade 12.

In a cul­ture of­ten si­lent on is­sues of men­tal health, Fosseneuve says it goes a long way to have some­one re­lat­able, such as Cross Child, speak­ing openly about his own chal­lenges.

“It’s de­vel­op­ing those so­cial skills to talk about men­tal health, I think that’s what we need to deal with, with our abo­rig­i­nal youth,” says Fosseneuve, who be­lieves giv­ing stu­dents con­fi­dence is key and that run­ning can play a pos­i­tive role. “At my school we’re see­ing some un­suc­cess­ful stu­dents be­cause of anx­i­ety is­sues and if run­ning can help build some in­trin­sic mo­ti­va­tion, along with the phys­i­cal as­pect, it’s one area that can help.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a pos­i­tive re­sponse from Charlebois Com­mu­nity School, in­vi­ta­tions from other north­ern schools as well as schools in and around Saska­toon started com­ing for Cross Child; and soon Chil­dren of the Cross Run­ning Clin­ics was born.

The clin­ics are a labour of love be­tween him­self, Ce­leste and his chil­dren; with each fam­ily mem­ber play­ing a role. Their 15-year-old daugh­ter Jaira, a pro­vin­cial cross-coun­try cham­pion, is a role model for young girls and is ea­ger to travel into the north­ern com­mu­ni­ties. While their younger boys, Kin­ley, Jayvin and Jar­rett, are equally en­thu­si­as­tic and like to help with ev­ery­thing from hand­ing out gen­tly used run­ning shoes – do­nated by the Brain­sport Shoe Do­na­tion Pro­gram – to help­ing with the set-up for Cross

Child’s pre­sen­ta­tions. Ce­leste pri­mar­ily works on the ad­min­is­tra­tive and lo­gis­ti­cal end, but also gets out to run with as many chil­dren as she can. Hav­ing com­pleted more than 15 marathons, she’s full of run­ning knowl­edge. The life the Cross Childs now lead seems al­most un­be­liev­able to the cou­ple at times, but they are both over­joyed know­ing they are a part of help­ing oth­ers who may be fac­ing sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances they once bat­tled, and mak­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on young lives. “The big­gest thing is for kids and adults to hear that there is hope; no mat­ter how bad things seem there is hope,” says Ce­leste. “I never imag­ined things would be bet­ter – ever – for us. I had com­pletely given up . . . I want peo­ple to know that change can and does hap­pen.” As for Cross Child, he wouldn’t be do­ing any this if it weren’t for Ce­leste. “It’s the fact that we’re do­ing it to­gether that makes it all that more en­joy­able,” says Cross Child. “When I look back at what I put her through, and where we are now – it’s amaz­ing to me.” Hav­ing al­ready reached more than 6,000 chil­dren with his mes­sage, Cross Child sees no lim­its for the run­ning clin­ics and en­vi­sions ex­pand­ing into com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try. Still, as big as his plans may get, Cross Child keeps it all in per­spec­tive and be­lieves if go­ing into a sin­gle com­mu­nity “changes one life, it’s worth it.”

Tara Camp­bell is a jour­nal­ist and reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Cana­dian Run­ning. Read her weekly blog: run­ning­magazine.ca/cat­e­gory/blog­gers/gotta-run

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