Olympic competitor Meb Keflezighi and his charity organization, The Meb Foundation, are working with Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital to collect medals for young patients.
By Guy McCarthy
Meb Keflezighi, a silver medalist marathon runner in the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, is helping lead a program encouraging other runners to donate their medals to children at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
“The idea is to inspire young patients who have endured injury or illness and encourage them through their own marathons of treatment and hospitalization,” Loma Linda University spokeswoman Briana Pastorino said in an announcement.
Children’s Hospital administrator Zareh Sarrafian said he is inspired to work with an Olympian on the program.
“Whether it be cancer or a broken bone that has put a child in our care, this gesture will give them a symbol of support,” Sarrafian said in prepared remarks. “A medal will show them that people do care and are wishing them well in their recovery.”
Medals of Courage was started in 2011 by Candace Ransom, in honor of her son, Lucas, Pastorino said. Lucas was body boarding in Santa Barbara in October 2010 when he was attacked by a shark and fatally injured. He was 19 years old.
Lucas was also an avid runner. Shortly before his death, he donated his own marathon medal to a sick child. He also hoped to study at Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy, Pastorino said.
Candace, a Perris native, tries to inspire others to follow her son’s example, Pastorino said. She has already collected more than 1,000 medals for Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
Now Keflezighi is asking runners from across the country to donate their medals to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, Pastorino said.
“As a father of three, I can’t imagine the anguish Candace has had to endure losing her son,” Keflizighi said while visiting patients at Children’s Hospital last week.
“I admire her courage to carry on in his memory and inspire others to make a difference in the lives of these young patients. This is a perfect partnership for me, and I’m honored to be working with Candace and Loma Linda to spread the word about Medals of Courage.”
To kick off Medals Of Courage, the 36-year-old Olympian has displayed his most recent medal, earned at the Olympic trials in Houston in January, in the Children’s Hospital lobby, Pastorino said.
Through Medals of Courage, Meb and Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital hope to collect 2,012 medals in honor of the 2012 Olympic games by the start of Meb’s Olympic marathon race on August 12. The medals that are collected will also be displayed at the hospital.
Keflezighi, a native of Eritrea in East Africa who emigrated to the U.S. at age 12, will return to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital in August after the London games are completed, Pastorino said.
For more information, visit www.medalsofcourage.org.