It was almost as if it was all meant to be.
When Kim Kreiling joined Team Momentum in 2014 in honor of her friends Stephanie and Jon Betts’ son Henry, now age 4, who lives with congenital muscular dystrophy, she posted about Henry and Team Momentum on social media. From that post, a few more friends signed up to race and raise money, and they formed a team called Henry’s Heroes.
Watching something like that come together because of her son was inspiring, Henry’s mom Stephanie says.
“All of the people who joined the team knew each other from previous things we’d been at and done,” she says, noting the team’s connections to the Betts family spanned relationships from different stages of their lives.
The team grew to include a childhood friend, a friend from college and others the Bettses had met many years before. When two more people joined, Stephanie says, “We came to find out that we knew them along with the coaches from a camp my husband used to attend as a kid and that we both worked at one summer in northern Wisconsin,” Stephanie says. “Such a small world.”
Inspired by the group, Stephanie and Jon knew they couldn’t remain sidelined while others ran for Henry. So they joined Team Momentum and did their first half marathon in 2015. After they completed the full Chicago Marathon that fall, Stephanie vowed she would never do it again.
“I kept saying, ‘I’ll be your best cheerleader. I will be there and I will help you and I will help with the dinners. I will help. I’m not running.’ And then I signed up again. The thought of being on the sidelines and not being with them — it didn’t make sense.”
Henry’s Heroes has gone on to be the top MDA fundraising team for the Chicago Half Marathon in 2015 and 2016. The Bettses have gotten creative with fundraising, yielding impressive results. They have raised $1,000 from Henry’s Heroes t-shirt sales. Jon’s brother Chris Betts, owner of Transient Artisan Ales, brewed a beer called Henry, with a dollar from every bottle he sells going to MDA. Yet another friend started a Thanksgiving morning turkey trot called Henry’s Hustle; the fifth annual race will be happening this fall.
At the center of it all is Henry.
“My husband and I always tell people this because it is the truth: Henry is our hero,” says Stephanie. “He is incredibly strong. Our quote on the back of our Henry’s Heroes shirts states, ‘True strength is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles.’ He is an amazing kid who has the best attitude that just draws people in. We are so incredibly lucky to be his parents.”
Stephanie couldn’t be more grateful for what Team Momentum has brought to her life. She has met other parents of children with muscular dystrophy who have become her close friends.
“I was meant to meet these people. I was meant to run that half. I was meant to meet those families because now I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she says.
For Stephanie, it’s not just about raising money for Henry. It’s about supporting all of MDA’s life-changing programs including MDA Summer Camp.
“There’s one boy that we know who just got back from camp. He looks forward to camp every year. And to help put money towards that, so that he and other kids can experience that, that’s huge.”
Like so many MDA families who have joined Team Momentum, including their friend Patrick Sawhill, the Bettses are motivated to run because their efforts will provide a brighter future not only for their son but also for thousands of other kids and adults just like him.
“Think about the life-changing experience you’re giving to that person, just by coming and running,” Stephanie says. “When you run for someone, for something, it’s a whole different experience. It makes it so much better when you finish.”
Join Henry’s Heroes and Team Momentum by dedicating your miles to helping kids like Henry live longer and grow stronger!