By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Pathfinder K-8 PE teacher Lou Cutler has spent 15 years fulfilling wishes in his spare time.
Today, he has a wish you can help fulfill: Support for his 12th annual birthday run around the school playfield – which for eight years has been a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which works to make wishes come true for seriously ill children.
This year’s run is tomorrow morning. Lou started the tradition when he was on the brink of 50, and now he’s soon to turn 60, so he’s taking 60 laps. Many of the school’s students will join him on the field for all or part of it. Here’s our video from last year:
This year, we thought it might be fun to talk to Lou ahead of time, so we went to Pathfinder last Thursday afternoon toward the end of the school day to find out more about his mission:
When we arrived at the agreed-on time, Lou was in the Pathfinder gym, giving a pep talk to sixth graders who will join the run. It’s a big topic at the school in the final weeks before it happens, with banners and signs:
And there is a bulletin board telling the story of Gracie, the little girl to whom Lou has dedicated this year’s run:
She lived to be just 2 1/2 years old – but that’s a lot longer than doctors had expected, after she was born much tinier than her twin. Lou met her in her final hours.
He explains that he is on a list of Make-A-Wish volunteers to be called for a “rush wish” – something that has to be done right away, to help a child who is not expected to live much longer. When you get a call like that, he says, “you know it might be a terminal wish.”
Lou got the “rush wish” call about Gracie at a time when he wouldn’t usually be able to take personal calls, but it just so happened that he had an appointment that particular day, so his schedule was different: “It was pure fate that I answered the phone.”
Gracie was at Seattle Children’s Hospital with her family, he was told. They wanted a few items to help comfort her, including a rocking chair, and “some ‘Lion King’ stuff,” as Lou recalls. He and his wish-granting partner set out to get what was requested – but when they returned, it was too late. Nonetheless, the 10 minutes he spent with Gracie will stay with him forever.
So will the understanding he has gained about wish fulfillment, through his volunteer work. “Everybody thinks, a wish, what would I wish for … But you would never trade your health for anything I could grant you. A lot of these kids don’t make it.”
Lou has been a “wish granter” for Make-A-Wish for 15 years. Last July, he was among the volunteers at Alki Beach as a much-publicized wish was granted – a little boy’s chance to be a Seafair Pirate – we spotted Lou in the group awaiting the Pirates’ arrival:
(WSB photo from July 2010)
While the granters always are showered with gratitude by those they help, he says, the feeling is mutual: “We’re thankful to them for being strong and brave.” He tries to comport that to his students. And for the annual run, it’s applied to something as simple as the weather – rain? so what, when you consider what the Make-A-Wish kids are going through to deal with their health challenges and often-grueling treatments.
The students also find it within themselves: “Some might say, no, I don’t want to run – and then they are suddenly out there with me. … Everybody loves to give. The kids do a great job – they’re running ten miles! It’s special to see that.”
And watching Lou run those ten miles too is a sight to remember, as well.
The run starts at 8:45 am tomorrow (Monday, June 6) on the Pathfinder playfield (north side of the campus at 1901 SW Genesee, in Pigeon Point). You can donate to Make-A-Wish through Lou’s run, online, by going here right now.