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Running the Race Before Her: Danielle's Marathon
By Nikki Patton

Many of us begin the year with New Year's resolutions and an ambitious list of goals to accomplish within the span of the year. While the intentions are great, they often lack follow-through.

Danielle preparing for San Diego's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

Danielle decided to prepare for San Diego's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

24 year old Danielle Sowersby decided that 2009 was the year she would run her very first marathon and use it as a tool to fund-raise for the Rock Church Prison Ministry’s “Angel Tree Camp.”

Danielle describes herself as a “big goal” type of person: physically active and quite busy. She works three jobs, is planning her summer wedding, is active in a small group, and is a leader in the Prison Ministry. Then she added training for the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

If you were to ask Danielle how she balances all of these things, she would simply say, “God. God laid the marathon on my heart. I have always wanted to do a marathon, so I just said, ‘Now is the time!’ ”

Running for What?

Not far into her training God asked Danielle a question, “Who are you doing this for?” Danielle knew she was doing it for God but she also knew there was something to that question. Danielle then had a question for Him, “God, how can I glorify You in this?” God reminded Danielle of a group of kids she met a month prior.

Danielle initially got involved with the Prison Ministry as the Pen Pal Coordinator and volunteering for other programs involving families of inmates. At the ministry’s Angel Tree Christmas Party, she got to interact and speak with children affected by incarceration. She witnessed first hand the shame and sadness many of these children carry.

“It is not every day that you come across a child who has a parent in prison that they have not seen in many years. Some have never seen their parents.” she said.

“It is not every day that you come across a child who has a parent in prison that they have not seen in many years. Some have never seen their parents.” she said.

At the party she also got to see what joy it gave the children to be around other kids just like them. A day with no judgments. The kids were relaxed and just happy being kids and doing things regular kids do-- making Christmas crafts, decorating cookies, and getting their picture taken with Santa.

Danielle felt God impress on her heart the idea to raise funds for the Prison Ministry’s Angel Tree Camp. She grew up attending camp as a child and made lifelong friends there. She knew what an impact camp could make in the life of a child affected by incarceration.

Angel Tree Camp

The Angel Tree Camp is for children ages 7-11 with incarcerated parents. Held at Calicinto Ranch in San Jacinto, California, the overnight camp has the typical fun activities like swimming and horseback riding. It also offers a spiritual dimension, connecting kids with mentors and providing devotional and worship time.

While Angel Tree Camp is free to the kids, it’s not free – and that’s where Danielle has decided to take action.

“It is nothing new for people to hear of someone running and raising money for various charities,” said Danielle, when asked about the fundraising aspect of her project. “People are very supportive of almost anything relating to children. When I say, ‘I am running to send kids to camp,’ people say things like, ‘That is so wonderful, how awesome, good luck with that!’ But when Danielle shares with people that she is running for kids affected by incarceration, they often don't know how to respond.

Nonetheless, Danielle has pressed on and the funds are coming in. In fact, she has already surpassed her own fundraising expectations. Most of her donations have come from family, close friends, co-workers, and her fellow Prison Ministry family.

“Running has become my time of worship!”

When it comes to the training, what gets her out the door? Danielle is honest. “Some days it is hard and I am tired. But like Pastor September Chaser says about serving within the Prison Ministry, ‘Take those first few steps and if it God is leading you there, He will open a door.’ So I just get dressed, move my feet and take those first few steps. Usually that is all I need to do. After those first few steps, I am good to go.”

One added perk of training for Danielle has been her increased time with God. “With my life being so busy, sometimes it can be hard to fit God in,” Danielle says. Now, because of training, she worships while she is out on the open road running her miles and preparing for the race God has given her.

With a minimum of eight hours of running a week, she now has many opportunities to spend alone time with God.

Inspired for Something Good

Asked, “What inspires you?” Danielle’s answer may surprise you. “The inmates. When you go to a prison and see what these places look like, and hear the stories from the inmates about how they ended up there…to see them come to a place of love in Christ and wanting to do something with their time and life… to hear someone who is locked up physically speaking of ‘being free’ because they now have Christ in their life -- how can you not be inspired?"

Like those inmates, she says, “I want to use my life for something good. I want my goals and commitments to point to God in my life.”

The Race

On May 31, Danielle laced up her shoes and took those first few steps with hundreds of other runners. She says she ‘hit the wall’ about mile 15. She got a second wind at mile 20 thanks to a message in chalk on the ground left for her by members of her small group.

It was hard but she accomplished her goal and finished the race, raising close to $1600 for the kids. The money will be used to send them to camp and there will be some left over for school supplies.

And while it wasn’t her intention, she ended up blessing other runners by just being there. The runner’s ministry gave her a shirt with Proverbs 16:3 on her back. “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Danielle has become an inspiration by moving where God leads.

For more information about the Prison Ministry, click here »