In 2016, one of my friends Ken "The Baller" Licari asked me to attend the 2nd Annual Purple Polka Dot 5K in Stony Creek Metro Park which is located between Washington & Shelby Townships. I wasn't sure what this event was about but I told Ken I love to support charitable causes and will attend if my calendar was free. I did some research on this event and found out that the Race Directors Jody & John Lee have a daughter who was born with a birth mark on her cheek and chin. This type of birthmark is referred to as Port Wine Stain (PWS) which is a form of a vascular birthmark. Jody & John created the Purple Polka Dot 5K as a way to raise funds for families affected by PWS. For every $500 raised, one family is able to attend the annual conference, receive a medical evaluation with a team of world renowned physicians, stay a night in a hotel and eat food during the conference all free of charge! Some families are also able to receive free laser treatments. The conference also connects families affected by vascular birthmarks together as a community so that they can form friendships and rely on each other for support as well.

As I researched further I ended up at the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF) website where my eyes started to open about how big this problem is. PWS affects 3 out of every 1,000 children who are born with no discrimination between gender and race. Some people might think that this is just a cosmetic problem. Nothing could be further from the truth! This is a disease which affects people physically and psychologically. After reading about how big of an issue this, I made it a point to clear off my calendar every year for the Purple Polka Dot 5K to support Jody, her family and this event.

How does it affect people physically? It is believed that PWS is caused by a deficiency or absence of surrounding neurons regulating blood flow through the ectatic post-capillary venules. As a result, the blood vessels are unable to constrict normally and remain permanently dilated. Over time, blood vessels become more dilated and susceptible to spontaneous bleeding or hemorrhage following minor trauma. Bleeding can be difficult to control, necessitate hospitalization and may also increase the likelihood of skin infection. If PWS is located on the forehead it can cause seizures. If it is located near the eyes it can cause glaucoma. If it is located near the lips or mouth it can cause issues with eating and affect gum and tooth development. If it is on one of the extremities it can cause pain and swelling.

How does it affect people psychologically? This is another great question. We live in a society where many people are always comparing themselves to others especially those that we see on TV and on social media. People are quick to judge the physical appearance of someone else whether it be their height, weight, the clothes they are wearing, what their teeth look  like, if something doesn't look normal with their face etc. It is one thing to deal with that as an adult but what is it like for a child? I would imagine it is ten times worse because sometimes children are not always polite and respectful of others and can hurt another child's feelings by making fun of them (or worse). Several studies conducted on people with PWS show that these people often suffer from low self esteem, problems socializing / establishing personal relationships with others and can become depressed. It is hard enough growing up in today's world with all of the pressures and stress that exists. There is no reason to be tearing people down when we could be building them up. Raising funds for these children to get information about the treatments available and connect them with the VBF community is necessary if we want to give them the best chance of living an enjoyable life with PWS.

What are the treatments for Port Wine Stain? Doctors can use a pulse dye laser which breaks up the birthmark into smaller areas that look like polka dots. Treating infants and children at a young age yield much greater results. This is why there is such a big emphasis on getting children with PWS to the annual conference so that they can learn about their options for treatment as early as possible.

What does this have to do with Fallen Soldiers & Fallen Veterans? Nothing really other than the fact that Running To Honor is about so much more than running.....and Fallen Soldiers. We wouldn't even be here today in the land of the Free if it wasn't for the service and sacrifices of our Fallen Soldiers & Veterans. I have lost more soldiers in combat and to PTSD then I can list here. I can't bring them back but I know what they would say if I had the chance to talk to them again. They would say "Just make a positive difference in the world. Be kind to people because everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. Make sure our sacrifices were for something and that we are not forgotten".

"But Aaron how does someone make a difference? I don't even know where to start". If that is the case, I recommend you watch this video at the link below about the Starfish Story:

Starfish Story Video

In closing here, Running To Honor cannot directly raise money and donate it to the Purple Polka Dot 5K or the Vascular Birthmark Foundation. I have made a long term commitment to the Wyandotte Veterans of Foreign Wars that I will continue to take the proceeds from the Running To Honor 5K to fund solar panels for their building and keep their doors open for future generations of Veterans. What I can do is form a partnership with the Purple Polka Dot 5K with the hope that the followers of Running To Honor might support the Purple Polka Dot 5K walk (or run) and in return the Purple Polka Dot 5K followers might support Running To Honor. This seems like a great way for two grass roots organizations to help each other grow in size and hopefully result in increased proceeds raised and donations. Like I said earlier, you can either spend your time building people up, tearing people down or doing nothing at all. I choose to build people up and I believe somewhere in life that comes back to you in a positive way.

I am offering a combo discount when you register for both the Running To Honor 5K and the Purple Polka Dot 5K at the same time through this registration website. This applies to both the in person 5K and the Virtual 5K. For more details visit the Registration Page.

Thank you for your support of both Running To Honor & The Purple Polka Dot 5K!

Purple Polka Dot 5K

Vascular Birthmark Foundation - Port Wine Stain: