Turning Tragedy Into Hope

Turning Tragedy Into Hope

On October 6, 2001 I got one of those phone calls that drops you to your knees… “Joe, this is Pat Samel, I’m calling to let you know that our son, Mike, just died”.  Time stood still.  One of my top boy scouts and the son of two of my adult scout leaders and close friends had just been killed in a freak car accident.  The next week was one of the toughest of my entire life as we tried to pull together as a scout family and make some sense of the tragedy that had just landed at our doorstep.  Honestly, I could hardly keep things together.  The wake and funeral, with hundreds of scouts and families, were a nightmare.  Somehow we got through it together.

My dear friends Mark and Pat Samel did something amazing.  They opened their door and their hearts to the world.  Their home overflowed with visitors from Mike’s high school band, scouts, scout leaders, friends and family for months and months.  Somehow this seemed to be helping the healing process for all.   Then something happened that changed things forever. An annual fundraiser called “The Bike and Hike for Mike” was created.  A foundation in Michael’s name was established and we all got busy raising money for music education as a way to honor and remember this amazingly talented young man and musician.  Hope had arrived.

How is this related to endurance training and racing?  For me, it’s the “fall down seven times, get up eight” thing.  It shows me that even in the most difficult training, racing and life situations, it’s critical for us to find a path forward and to have hope for better times ahead.  It’s easy to just quit, but true champions in life push through adversity or tragedy and find a way to move the ball forward.  To get things back on track.  To live again.  Mark and Pat somehow got back up and have made a difference in so many lives since Mike’s passing.

I just talked to Mark and confirmed our reservation for Saturday’s Michael David Samel Spirit of Music Foundation fundraising dinner at Cantigny.  It will be a night of remembrance and celebration.  Mike would have wanted it that way.  🙂

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