Haley Scott DeMaria

GOD BLESS ND SWIM

Today is summit day. We were up at midnight (after going to sleep – or trying to – at 5pm yesterday) to climb seven hours in the dark to summit at sunrise. Today we climb to 19,340 feet.

Today, as I have every day since January 24, 1992, I honor my teammates: the Notre Dame Swimming and Diving team of 1991-92, and in particular, Colleen Hipp and Meghan Beeler. Today is dark, cold and hard. I am tired, I have a headache and my body aches to match. But I will carryon and persevere with the help of my teammates.

At the site of our accident so many years ago (27 years this month), there was a sign woven into the nearby chainlink fence. It read: God Bless ND Swim. Today, this rock will be placed at the highest point in Africa to honor my team and my teammates.

God Bless ND Swim.

GBNDS

THE BOYS

Today I climb for my boys. All three of them. People often tell me that I have three children (Jamie, James and Edward). Ha ha. And sometimes I feel like I do. (Actually, I have five children – two furry ones.)

Not only do I have stones from each of my boys, but I have other gifts too. For Christmas, James gave me a medal of St. Bernard of Montjoux, the patron saint of hikers. I wore it through my last two weeks of training and I am wearing it up the mountain. Edward also gave me a meaningful gift: a special t-shirt with a message that has meaning to the two of us. I wore it on the plane and will wear it when I summit. So both boys will – literally – be close to my heart on the climb.

“Tonight” we are at 15,200 feet. We will go to bed at 5pm, wake up at midnight, and hike until 7am – in the dark (and cold) – to the summit at sunrise. If you find yourself saying a prayer today, send one to St. Bernard of Montjoux for us! And if you aren’t one to pray, just turn southeast towards Tanzania and send us your warm wishes. Because it’s gonna be cold!

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SMILE LIKE SULLY

Today we climb from Shira Camp to Barranco Camp at almost 13,ooo feet (12,959 feet to be exact). Along the way, we will pass the lava tower (called “Shark’s Tooth”) and arrow glacier.

Today’s stone is in honor of Sully, an almost-ten-year-old boy who has been fighting stage IV neuroblastoma for half his life. He has relapsed twice. No child with his stage of disease has survived one relapse. And yet, just last month he had his port removed.

There aren’t enough words to express what a superhero Sully is, and his parents, and his two brothers. They are a super hero family that I am privileged to know. When I gave Sully a stone, I told him: If you can move mountains, I can climb one. And I asked him to decorate it. In true Sully fashion, he was thinking of others. His stone is a combination of two forces in his life: the fight (he is WINNING) against Childhood Cancer, and the United States Naval Academy, where he is a hero among heroes as an honorary member of some of their sports teams. I know Sully’s stone is also a tribute to his forever friends in heaven.

Sully, I am taking you to the top of the mountain! And when it gets hard and I am tired and cold, I will continue because your spirit is with me.

#SmileLikeSully

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PARAMUS STRONG

Today’s stone honors those affected by the bus accident in Paramus, NJ, that killed a 5th grader and a teacher from East Brook Middle School.

I visited East Brook in the Fall and have stayed in touch with some of the families. One family has a connection to my own: the mom, Claudia, was my husband’s high school prom date; and also a connection to my own accident: Claudia was an age-group teammate of Meghan Beeler’s. Claudia’s daughter, Lauren, was injured in the bus accident, and we have corresponded over the past several months.

I sent Lauren a stone to decorate, so I could honor her and her classmates and her school. Paramus Strong gives me the strength today to hike from Machame Camp to Shira Camp at 11,400 feet.

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PEACE

For the past two days we have been acclimating to the higher altitude of Tanzania. Especially for I, who lives at sea level, it has been nice to slowly adjust to the higher altitude. We have done a couple of day hikes, visited Fr. David’s home (a fellow ND Trail Pilgrim), and shared our hopes and fears for the climb that begins today.

We are at around 7000 feet in Maua and will drive to Machame Gate to begin our climb. We will end our hike at Machame Camp at 9300 feet.

Today I begin my climb praying for Peace. Peace on the mountain. Peace in the world and Peace in our hearts.

This stone was given to me by a friend (who has a friend) who hopes to place one million peace rocks around the world. I have two; one for the summit and one for the safari. (Although I’m not sure how much peace the animals encounter in the wild…)

Today, let’s pray for PEACE.

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TANZANIA

Yesterday I boarded a flight to Tanzania, by way of Ethiopia. I was a bit nervous to travel alone, but my nerves led to excitement for the adventure ahead.

But we are never really alone. There are so many who helped me get here.

My husband, who always encourages me to live my adventures. I am so grateful for his love and acceptance of who I am, what I need to do, and his understanding that life with me isn’t routine.

My friends and training partners. I have walked, hiked and talked for miles with a few different women whose friendship has entertained me through hours of training. We’ve also solved some parenting issues, laughed and shed tears, and I will carry their friendship with me (along with some of the gear they have lent me) to the summit.

My ND Trail Pilgrims. During the summer of 2017, 32 Pilgrims walked 320 miles on the ND Trail. Some of these Pilgrims will climb with me this week; but the rest will cheer us on, and pray for us, from afar. I know my entire Notre Dame family is with me.

My parents will hold down the fort while I am gone (and drive, cook and do laundry for my children). The boys are fairly independent, which makes this adventure easier to do; but I am grateful for my parents presence, which gives me piece of mind.

And my intentions. My stones. I am not alone because of the stones I will carry. It is a tradition on some pilgrimages to carry intention stones. These can be prayers, these can be stones from home, these can be to honor someone. Mine will do all three. And each day as I climb, I will share my stone of the day. And with any luck (and a lot of prayers, and support, and training), I will leave these stones at the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Please keep us in your prayers!

HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE

It’s New Years Eve. I am on my computer typing while my husband is watching a baking competition on the Food Network. Clearly we are not “New Years Eve people.” Not sure what that means, but this has never been a very rowdy holiday in our lives. (Except for the New Years Eve that my husband and I danced to Gangnam Style and sent my then-ten-year-old running out of the room embarrassed.)

We have been away for the past five days; with friends in Miami and then with college friends: one of my teammates and her family. My teammate (who works in a hospital) told us that on New Years Eve (and the 4th of July), hospitals schedule extra transplant staff because they know there will be more organs available for donation on those nights. Tonight I pray for those families whose loved ones will give and receive the gift of life.

I know that’s a sobering thought. But it was all I could think about as my now-sixteen-year-old-son drove to his friend’s house for the night. (They are staying in, thank goodness.)

As we wrap-up 2018, I am grateful for pretty much everything. This year hasn’t been without its challenges, but those too are blessings. They are opportunities to grow and to learn. And when the real challenges set in, they are opportunities to be embraced by family and friends. I couldn’t do what I do, and I would be who I am, without my family and friends.

As 2019 approaches, my hopes and dreams remain the same: the safely, good health and happiness of my loved ones. Those seem like simple asks, but they are everything. If we are happy, have good health and are safe, life is good.

Happy New Year.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS MERRY HOLIDAYS

This month has, as it probably has for everyone, flown by. Even with the early Thanksgiving date – and therefore the longest possible Christmas season – all of a sudden we find ourselves at Christmas Eve.

With Advent being a time of preparation, I have been preparing for two very different events: Christmas and Africa. And as excited as I am for my trip in January, I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the days leading up to my departure. While they will be filled with training and packing lists (and checking them twice), I find myself marveling at this magical time of year.

I have always loved Advent as it was a special time in our home growing up. My mom created a Children’s Advent Program, that I now enjoy with my own children. We try to spend a little more time thinking about others less fortunate (a goal to remind ourselves of this all year). We purchase, wrap, bake and decorate. And sometimes the stress kicks in (like about 10 minutes ago, when I told my kids they had to stay outside until they could play nicely on the basketball court…it’s 35 degrees outside…)

Ah yes, the stress. This is where my Africa trip folds nicely into this time of year. I have to train. I have to walk and hike and make sure I am in shape to make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro. So I take time each day to do this; and it’s as healthy physically as it is mentally. While a workout doesn’t sound much like “slowing down,” it’s a time to pause from the traffic, talk to a friend, breathe in the fresh (35 degree) air, and remind myself of my blessings.

Hope. Love. Joy. Gifts. The blessings of Advent. Sprinkle in Family and Christmas is complete.

Merry Christmas from our house (or if you’re my kids, outside our house) to yours.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Happy Thanksgiving!

I try to live my life in a perpetual state of Giving Thanks, and – as you can imagine – some days are easier than others. However, this week has been a recipe for everything most meaningful in my life.

Last week, my parents arrived. For those of us blessed to still have our parents with us, I am truly grateful to share today with them.
A few days later, my sister and her FAMILY arrived. And while my brother isn’t here, we talked to him a few times and will again today.
Last weekend, we celebrated our FAITH with mass for my older son’s high school class at their Junior Ring Mass. It was the perfect way to kick off Thanksgiving Week: in thoughtful reflection and celebration. Our oldest then spent three days on his junior retreat. We have been blessed to have two amazing schools help raise and develop our children: St. Anne’s School of Annapolis and Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore.
My younger son has pneumonia. And while that might not be something for which we are thankful right now; it is a reminder to be thankful for our good health, for healing, and to remember that many children are not healthy or healing.
On Monday this week, I visited Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island to speak to their student-athletes, coaches and teachers. I love what I do, and I love sharing it with others. This particular talk was meaningful because my dad went with me. We rode the train up and back (it was a long day trip), and received the most incredible hospitality while we were there. It was, again, a reminder of the kindness and goodness of people.
All throughout the week, I have been texting back and forth with FRIENDS. We are all with our respective families, but connected by the shared experiences and joy that bond us as close as our family.

The past two days have been filled with baking, shopping, cooking, shopping, cleaning up, and back to the grocery store because we forgot something. Those are all blessings too.

I hope your table and home – or wherever you are – is as blessed as ours.

Dad and I at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island.

Dad and I at Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island.

NOTRE DAME vs FLORIDA STATE

From chapter 22 of What Though the Odds:

Most Notre Dame football fans recall the 1993 season. We played and defeated the 1990s powerhouse Florida State University in a #1 vs. #2 matchup. The Fighting Irish were ranked #2, but the favored team in this home game. It was billed as the “Game of the Century,” and the campus was abuzz with excitement and press.
The pep rally for the “Game of the Century” was held one week after my first race, on the Friday night before the football game. The basketball arena overflowed with fans and students. We had a swim meet that afternoon and most swimmers rushed through warm-down, barely showering, to sneak through the back door to the floor of the arena. I asked Coach if I could skip the last relay; I had a speech to write.
I too walked through the back corridors of the Joyce Center, from the pool to the basketball arena. But I was stopped in the hallway and told to wait with the football players who were lined up to parade into the pep rally. Standing there between two much larger student-athletes, I heard the buzz:
“Who’s the speaker?”
“I hear it’s Joe Montana!”
“Oh, that’s awesome!”
I wanted to disappear into the wall I was leaning against.
“Maybe it’s Regis!”
“It better be somebody good. This is a big game!”
It was then, I think, that they noticed there was a female standing among them. I do not know if they knew who I was, but I would guess some of them did. I smiled and said, “It’s just me.”
Thankfully, one of the players, who it was I cannot recall, replied without hesitation, “It is someone good. That’s awesome!”

And such was my first pep rally speech. 25 years later, I still remember the feeling of walking into the arena behind Coach Holtz. I still remember looking up from the podium and seeing my teammates sitting on the floor encouraging me, as they always did…and still do. I barely remember what I said, but it had something to do with how Notre Dame athletes know how to beat the odds.

Tomorrow’s game against Florida State has the same implications as it did in 1993: we need to win to stay undefeated for a chance at a national title. And there is no doubt that those of us who were at – or watched – the game in 1993 will be thinking about that November weekend 25 years ago. But for me, I will be thinking about the Fighting Irish tonight as well, during their pep rally, and remembering with such gratitude the opportunity I had to share a small role in that amazing weekend, billed the “Game of the Century.” To me, I simply refer to it as the best football game I have ever attended. And the best pep rally.

Go Irish! Beat Seminoles!
ND-FSU pep rally 1993

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