By Sue Botos
Most people don’t want to think about actual work over the Labor Day holiday. But for more than 300 runners and walkers, Sept. 1 was a “labor of love.”
This was the theme for the inaugural run/walk for the benefit of Our Lady of the Wayside, begun by Rocky River city prosecutor Michael O’Shea and his wife, Gina. The O’Sheas said they initiated the event in response to the superior treatment their son Michael, 21, has received while living at Our Lady of the Wayside’s Old Abbe home in Sheffield Village. The nonprofit organization provides residential, respite, transportation and day programming for individuals with developmental disabilities.
“We’re definitely doing this again next year. We were blown away by how well the first annual went. We’ll try to double our numbers next year,” O’Shea commented.
He said that plans for the event began about nine months ago. “Then it really picked up steam and got legs. During the last four weeks we did promos on the radio and social media and it really took off,” O’Shea added during a recent interview.
The Thursday before the race, O’Shea said more than 300 had registered for the 4-mile relay/run and 2-mile walk/run. In all, he said 386 people, from preteens to seniors, participated. “We would have been happy with 75,” he stated.
Winners in the various age divisions were awarded with birdhouses hand-painted by Our Lady of the Wayside clients. (For full results, go to www.hermescleveland.com/roadracing.)
O’Shea gave all credit for the race to Gina and Our Lady of the Wayside event planner Pam Barker. “They put it all together and went to all of the meetings. I came in as the closer at the end,” he added.
Gina stated before the race, “I started running as my therapy after we made the decision to place (son) Michael into a home.” Her husband explained that Michael was born with a “partial deletion of the 22nd chromosome,” which he said leads to “profound autistic tendencies.” Gina said it was the combination of her love of running and the amazing care their son received at Our Lady of the Wayside that led to the birth of Labor of Love.
“Michael started coming with me on runs when we found an adaptive racing chair through the great people at Second Sole. I found that running with me is something Michael really enjoys. He loves being outside and interacting with people, and it’s a great way for him to be involved with our family,” she said.
Running has become a family affair for the O’Sheas, as Gina said her father did his first 5K run with son Michael, the couple’s younger son Patrick and her husband. Although Michael O’Shea said that his wife is the real runner in the family, he participated in the Labor of Love 4-mile run. “I’m not really a runner. I’m more of a tag-along,” he stated.
Among the plethora of races taking place each weekend, spring through fall, Barker said that Labor of Love stands out. “It’s unique because it’s a 4-mile as opposed to a 5 or 10 K,” she said in a phone interview. She added that a chip implanted in each runner’s number bib recorded their exact time.
Barker continued that the event is more than about running and competition. “It’s all about making new friends and finding out about our agency,” she added.
O’Shea said that his son has responded to the “very aggressive and great treatment” he has
received at Our Lady of the Wayside. “He’s still the happiest kid I know,” he noted.