During the summer of 2016, seventh grader Brody Taylor received a letter. He says the signature was a little sloppy, “understandably,” but the contents moved Brody and validated what he had learned that summer: gratitude.

The letter to Brody was signed by 19-year-old Tom Babbs. The Evergreen teen had recently been in an accident while visiting Hawaii. According to a report by Fox 31 Denver, “A wave slammed (Tom) into the sand and shattered his C5 vertebrae,” leaving him paralyzed. Brody learned of Tom’s accident earlier that year through social media.

“Tom put a little video on Facebook that my mom showed me, and it was powerful and made me feel bad because he was going into his first year of college, and he was paralyzed,” says Brody. After seeing the video, Brody began thinking of ways to raise money to help Tom and his family.

“I sent him a letter and asked if it would be okay if I did a run-a-thon for him,” he says. Brody, who began attending CA in 2013, decided he would run 100 miles over the course of the summer — a “good milestone number.” In order to raise money, he went around to neighbors, family members and friends, asking for donations.

“Some donated 25 cents a mile, some 50 cents, and some even donated a dollar,” Brody says. Brody would even ask people along his route to donate to the cause, and over the course of the two months he spent running, he accumulated 17 sponsors, running almost every day, sometimes up to 12 miles.

Right before school started, Brody completed the run-a-thon, reaching his goal of 100 miles and earning a total of $1,300, as well as a great sense of accomplishment.

“When I was finished, I sent Tom a letter with the money and told him about my experiences,” says Brody. Of those experiences, he says his biggest takeaway was one of gratitude. “It made me be a little more grateful for the things I have. I mean, we take advantage of just walking. I’m thankful that I can walk,” says Brody. Soon after, Brody received a thank-you letter dictated but signed by Tom.

“Thank you for creating a run-a-thon for me,” the letter read. “I am very thankful to have people like you in my life. What happened to me was pretty awful but seeing people like you responding in awesome ways makes it a lot better. Stay inspired!”

As for the future, the two plan on getting lunch together when Tom returns home from his first year attending the University of Kansas. It will be the first time Tom and Brody sit down and talk — they’ve spoken briefly a few times on the phone.

Brody can’t wait to tell Tom all the things he learned from the experience, including the value of giving back.

“The experience made me want to be a better person,” says Brody, “just because I know that people take things for granted. People can easily do stuff like I did for others. And it can be as easy as waking up and running for thirty minutes a day.”

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