“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.”
TARRANT CROSS CHILD’S CHILDREN OF THE CROSS RUNNING CLINICS ARE A LABOUR OF LOVE BETWEEN HIMSELF, CELESTE AND HIS CHILDREN; WITH EACH FAMILY MEMBER PLAYING A ROLE
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