West Hills Physical Education Paraeducator Lindsay Parsell recently ran a total of 50 miles over the course of four days, as part of the Disney Dopey Challenge. In conjunction with the running challenge, Parsell raised funds for mental health awareness, with donations benefiting the Eric Domanico Foundation.
Parsell shares, “This particular foundation is dear to my heart. Eric Domanico is the nephew of a very dear friend of mine who lost his battle with depression. Mental health is a big issue right now, especially because of the pandemic and peoples’ lives being put on hold. Working in a school and seeing mental health issues with children so young is scary. I want people to know that it is ok to talk about it, and if you need help all you have to do is say something.” Eric Domanico was 19, a South Lyon East 2019 graduate, a student at West Virginia University, and a very talented and accomplished musician. Eric lost his battle with mental health on July 11. Donors to Parsell’s fundraiser gave - and still can give - by donating per mile run, or by contributing a set amount of money.
The Disney Dopey Challenge involves four consecutive days of running a 5k, 10k, 13.1 miles and 26.2 miles, for a total of 48.6 miles. Parsell decided to tag on another .7 miles each to the 5K and 10 K runs, to add up to an even 50 miles run over the course of the four days. Parsell is no stranger to long runs, with 25 marathons completed before this recent challenge. “I have had the Dopey Disney Challenge on my Bucket List for many years. I completed the Disney Marathon in 2001, way before they even had the Dopey Challenge. But ever since they have had this option I have always wanted to do it. With many races being virtual this past year I was able to sign up and not have to spend money to travel to Florida. It's the challenge of doing that far of a distance over four days which I have never done before. And I love challenges! The medals I get are pretty cool too.”
Parsell’s running route began in Birmingham, and went past Bloomfield Hills High School. Friends, family, and school community members were encouraged to join Parsell, to help motivate and finish the challenge. As for how tough it was, Parsell reflects, “I would say the first two days were easy. It was just a typical running day for me. The half marathon is the usual distance I do once a week. I would say that the hardest part was the marathon on the fourth day, but I have been training really hard for this. I was tired and sore but I felt pretty good. I had a lot of support along the way and lots of friends that ran part of the course with me. Today is the day after I ran the marathon and I feel the best I have ever felt after running one. I give credit to the training that I was able to do to help me feel great after the run. I've already signed up for the Detroit Marathon in the fall.”
One of the many people who showed up along the route to cheer on Parsell was West Hills Principal Andy Gignac. Gignac notes, “When Mrs. Parsell shared that she was completing 50 miles of running over four days in the middle of winter, I wasn’t surprised. As long as I have known her, she has always exhibited grit and determination. What really touched my heart is that the inspiration for the Dopey Challenge came from a desire to support a friend in a time of loss and raise money and awareness for mental health.” Lindsay Parsell is a role model for the West Hills community, inspiring others by demonstrating goal-setting, hard work, and perhaps most importantly, generosity and heart. As Parsell puts it, “I have learned that the body is an amazing thing. I never knew I could do this. I have learned that friends and family are the anchor to so many peoples’ lives when they are struggling and need support to help them through. No matter if it is trying to finish 50 miles or just struggling to get out of bed. I hope by doing this challenge and running for The Eric Domanico Foundation that it gives at least one person the courage to ask for help.”
To learn more about or to donate to the foundation, visit this website: https://www.ericdomanicofoundation.com.