Carlton Ulmer has completed several marathons and triathlons and each has required its share of training, pain, endurance and sense of fulfillment.
But long after the races are run, after the moment of victory has faded, Ulmer’s finishing medals will live on to inspire others because he has donated many of them to a very special organization, Medals4Mettle. His race medals are given to others who are now racing for their lives.
Medals4Mettle is a non-profit organization that facilitates the gifting of marathon, half marathon, and triathlon finishers’ medals. Runners from around the world give their hard earned medals to Medals4Mettle. A network of physicians and volunteers then awards these medals attached to a Medals4Mettle ribbon to children and adults fighting debilitating illnesses who might not be able to run a race, but are in a race of their own just to continue to live their life. It is in honor of this mettle and courage in bravely facing these challenges that they are awarded a medal.
The organization was started by Dr. Steven Isenberg. The day after he finished the 2003 Chicago Marathon, Isenberg, a head and neck surgeon in Indianapolis, paid a visit to a colleague who was hospitalized. The two men were a study in contrasts. Dr. Isenberg, 53, was on a post-race high. Les Taylor, who had prostate cancer, lay flat on his back with tubes running in and out of him.
At a loss for words, Dr. Isenberg pulled his finishers’ medal from his pocket and placed it around Taylor’s neck.
“I want you to have this,” he said. “You are running a much more difficult marathon than the one I completed.”
Before he died, Taylor told Dr. Isenberg how much he treasured the medal. Those words inspired Dr. Isenberg to start Medals4Mettle in 2005, as a vehicle to collect runner’s medals which could be donated to those who are battling serious and debilitating illnesses and who have demonstrated similar courage and mettle in fighting those illnesses.
“When you think of one of these big events such as a marathon or a triathlon, you think of all the hard work and training that goes into it,” said Ulmer who has completed five Ironman triathlons. “It takes months of training and hardship. There are days when you’re disappointed and tired but you push through. The idea that you can take your finisher’s medal and donate that to be given to a child or an adult in their own fight is an awesome thing. It’s almost like you’re racing twice — once for yourself and once for someone else as well. That medal passes from me and goes to someone else who has been even tougher and even more courageous.”
John Crowley is the coordinator of the North Georgia Chapter of Medals4Mettle. He said the chapter is young, having been started this spring, but its needs are threefold.
“First we need to raise some money,” he said. “There is a cost for cleaning all the medals that are donated and changing out the ribbon. All the medals we give, bear the Medals4Mettle ribbon.”
The second need, he said, is to collect medals. So far, the local chapter has received about 60 marathon, half-marathon, triathlon and ultra-marathon medals from around the Rome community. Anyone can donate medals from those races. Dropoff locations are at Redmond Regional’s outpatient rehab centers as well as at Cycle Therapy on Broad Street.
The third objective of Crowley’s mission is to distribute the medals donated. He is seeking a partnership with local and area medical centers as well as children’s hospitals in search of individuals with chronic, debilitating or terminal illnesses who have shown courage throughout their ordeal.
The medals can be awarded by Medals4Mettle personally or can be given to a medical facility to be awarded by doctors or health practitioners to the patient.
So far, Medals4Mettle has gifted two medals in the Rome community. One was given to Sherrie Nix who is battle leukemia and the other to Dawn Lambert, a three-time breast cancer survivor.
“When we gave the medal to Dawn, she was emotional and was very happy to receive it,” Crowley said. “I think the idea is that you earn a medal and you get that sense of accomplishment, but by giving it to someone else who is in an even tougher race, that medal lives on and gives encouragement to that person.”
Carlton Ulmer says he will continue to race and will continue to donate his medals so that others who are unable to complete a marathon or triathlon but are struggling with races of their own, will know that their courage and strength do no go unnoticed.
And he encouraged area runners to do the same.
Drop off your half-marathon, marathon, triathlon and ultra-marathon medals at drop-boxes located at Redmond Outpatient Rehab, 2112 Shorter Avenue, Cycle Therapy on Broad Street, Triangle Shopping Center in Trion or at Polk Rehab in Cedartown.
You may also mail donations to John Crowley at 3349 Old Dalton Rd., Rome, Ga. 30165.
For additional information about the Northwest Georgia Chapter of Medals4Mettle, e-mail email@example.com or visit online at medals4mettle.org.