SpeakingUp in Tampa, Florida

Picture this: it’s 6 a.m. and the gates of Al Lopez Park in Tampa, Florida, slowly open. The sun has not yet risen, but volunteers immediately begin unpacking our race trailer. A sea of headlamps, looking like fireflies buzzing around the park, show the people of Tampa that we are working hard to bring them an experience like no other. Ruminate on that visual for a moment. In the darkness, we will be light.

The sun finally comes up, participants arrive, more volunteers arrive, and the course is set. I am running around checking off boxes in my head, making sure we are all organized, and I feel a gentle pull on my elbow. Melissa, our race director, asks me to come with her. She pulls me into the middle of the start area and says, “Look. Look at this, it is happening. Isn’t it beautiful?”

The Tampa community came together not because they knew Cameron, but because they wanted to SpeakUp. They pulled together as a community to make sure that no one feels alone in this. The people of Tampa spoke up to bring awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety, something that was undeniable as the herd of supporters started the race. Tampa tied up their shoelaces and ran, walked, skipped and danced, carrying their hearts and their smiles across the finish line.

I was overwhelmed as I watched the day unfold. A hush fell over the crowd as Tampa graciously listened to Cameron’s story at the start of the race. Many people shared their own stories with David and me. I hope everyone knows we graciously carry each of your stories with us as we work everyday for all the Camerons out there, along with their friends and families, who fight the good fight.

Over 600 participants, 200 volunteers, and an infinite amount of kindness, love, and support came out on October 22nd  to the first SpeakUp5k in the Sunshine State. Thank you Tampa! 

Katherine Cook