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Life Lesson from a Banana Loving Superhero

During the pandemic I started a fitness class for kids in my driveway. The only requirement I had was that kids were at least 10 and that they had at least somewhat of a desire to be there. Among the first couple of people to sign up were 10 year old twins. Austin and Logan. They showed up in my driveway that cold autumn day with polite skepticism. They weren't too crazy about the whole idea of fitness, but were willing to give it a shot. A lot of the other boys had a lot more athletic experience, but they didn't let that intimidate them. And with the promise of a post workout banana, I soon learned that I could get Austin to do pretty much anything, even when he was tired. The kid had a special little spark I noticed right from the beginning, but it wasn't until a couple months later that I would TRULY see the fire this kid has.

A few months in to our fitness classes, Austin wasn't feeling well and didn't show up to class. I wasn't overly concerned until early the next morning when Austin's mom called to tell me Austin had suffered a stroke and underwent emergency brain surgery. She wanted to let me know he was so upset to miss the class and she didn't know when or if he would be able to return. I was gutted. But in true Austin form, he bounced back. A few weeks later, with the doctor's permission, we decided he could start working with me again one on one, just to get him moving. We started walking and talking about goals. He told me he couldn't imagine how or why people run, but he was pretty proud of himself for being able to walk so long. On one of our walks, we decided it would be fun to train for a walking race as our goal! When I couldn't find any races that fit the criteria we were looking for, I decided to create a race just for us and we came up with the PERFECT name: "The Banana Split 2 Miler". We also decided to turn in to a fundraiser to benefit Pediatric Stroke Research at Boston Children's Hospital, where Austin had his surgery.

Everything was going great until a few weeks later when Austin shockingly had a blood clot in his brain and suffered ANOTHER major stroke and underwent brain surgery yet again. I'll be honest, I didn't think the Banana Split 2 Miler was still in the cards, but in true Austin style, he didn't give up. He fought like hell to get back to our walks and even eventually joined the kids fitness class again where he shocked us all by joining in to the jump roping competition and had every kid chanting his name as loud as they could.

On Sunday May 2, Austin Rizzo crossed the finish line of the Banana Split 2 Miler at Basic Batch Donuts in Milford, MA with a HUGE smile on his face, along with the kids from the fitness class, his family and members of the community who decided to join Austin in his race! The Milford Police Department came out in full force to make sure our route was safe and the crowd cheering Austin on as he RAN the final stretch was something I'll never forget. In the end, Austin raised over $14, 000 for Boston Children's Hospital. The look of self confidence and pride in his eyes that day will live in my heart forever.

But, here is my FAVORITE part of the story. The boy who couldn't imagine how or why people run is now RUNNING cross country and totally enjoying it. Occasionally Austin will proudly send me his post meet stats and I can't help but smile ear to ear remembering the little boy who's feet hurt and constantly reminded himself out loud, "we may get tired, but we never quit."

I think we all can learn a lot from this banana loving superhero!

Check out Austin's story on WCVB:

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