When event organizer Robin Mounsteven first set out to create the Mary Lake Marathon, he decided on a fundraising goal of $5,000. Since then, the community has blown that total out of the water, raising more than $27,000 for a local girl who’s heading into surgery later this month.
Mounsteven launched the marathon in honour of Scarlett Seymour, who was born with her liver, stomach, gallbladder and bowels on the outside of her body. She’s been through many surgeries already in her three years of life, and she’s returning to the operating room to have part of her stomach put inside her body on Oct. 28. To support her and her family during that time, Mounsteven put together an online fundraiser that brought in over $20,000 and collected $7,000 in cash, cheques and other donations. In addition to the fundraising, dozens of people came out to support Scarlett at the event on Oct. 10, despite a bout of bad weather.
“To have people come out and brave the elements and still want to take part and have a smile on their face, it was a real joyous event to be a part of,” Mounsteven said.
About 60 people came out to do a 5-kilometre fun run while Mounsteven ran the full distance of 42 kilometres as a trial run for future years of the marathon. The event also included a barbecue and ceremony before Scarlett kicked off the 5K with a ceremonial sprint down the sidewalk.
The words of encouragement were “seemingly endless,” Mounsteven said, and it helped him realize how dedicated and supportive the Port Sydney community truly is. He knew the marathon would become a yearly staple in the community as he watched his idea for a running event morph into something bigger than he ever imagined.
“Honest and truly it has changed my life to be able to see the way that people like this in a community have been able to come together,” Mounsteven said. “It’s incredibly inspiring and I feel we could do more.”
In service of that goal, Mounsteven and his wife Jackie plan to start a foundation to go alongside the annual marathon. They had hoped to hold the next marathon in the spring, but to ensure there’s enough time to register the charity and plan the event, they’ve decided to host the second Mary Lake Marathon in the fall of 2022.
They’re not sure who the next beneficiary for the event will be, but Mounsteven said he hopes to continue supporting children in the area. For now, he’s happy to know the money is going to a family that’s eager to help others and he said it’s been amazing “to be a part of that wave of generosity and love.” He plans to keep the online fundraiser running for a couple more weeks and he’ll continue to collect other donations for the Seymour family as long as they keep coming in.
“It was really empowering to be able to see the reaction from the community when [Scarlett] was there, and there were people who were eager to meet her and to be able to soak up her happy disposition in light of all of the rough road that she’s had to endure,” he said. “She is a beacon for everything that is awesome about this community.”
Scarlett’s mother Amanda Seymour said she can’t express how grateful she feels toward Mounsteven. This isn’t the first time Port Sydney has rallied behind her family, but the magnitude of the generosity has still left her stunned.
“The Port Sydney community is strong, they started this all off, so our family thanks Port Sydney so, so much,” Amanda said. “It’s overwhelming. Right now I have goosebumps just even talking about it.”
It was amazing to experience everyone’s support at the marathon, she said, and it gave her the chance to share how the money would help cover Scarlett’s medical expenses. Scarlett is fed through a tube, so she’ll be starting a feeding therapy soon to help her learn to eat by mouth. The therapy costs $90 for 45 minutes, so combined with $5,000 for a new breathing machine, $2,000 for new orthotics and other costs associated with her surgery, the fundraised dollars will go a long way.
Because of Scarlett’s complex medical needs, the pandemic has been particularly isolating for her and her family. Amanda said the marathon was a good opportunity to safely interact with the community, and it was great to see Scarlett lead the way with the fun run.
“Robin and Jackie’s children said, ‘One, two, three, go!’, and then Scarlett took off and ran the first little bit of the marathon, which everyone thought was really cute,” Amanda said. “She also got on the little buggy that they had with music that Robin pulled her around on and she loved it.”
Scarlett and her family will be leaving for Toronto on Oct. 25 in preparation for her surgery. The lead-up to the operation is nerve wracking, Amanda said, and COVID restrictions at the hospital only add to that. She’s arranged specialized services to help Scarlett understand and prepare for the procedure as well as music therapy to help her and the rest of the family relax throughout the surgery process.
The support from their SickKids family is astronomical on its own, but it means a lot to the Seymours to have so much love and support from their neighbours in Port Sydney as they head toward yet another surgery. Thanks to the community’s connections, the words of encouragement and donations have come from far and wide, even some from overseas.
“It was just so nice to see people from far, from close, even friends of friends of friends reaching out,” Amanda said. “Whether it was a money donation or ‘What can I do to help out your family?’ or ‘Can I make some meals for you to take down there?’, people come out of the woodworks for things like this. Our family cannot wait to support the next Mary Lake Marathon that’ll be happening next year for another lucky family.”
To make a donation in support of Scarlett and the Seymour family, click here.