Jennifer B. Nilles x The Giving Keys #Ho'omau

I have

Gifted a Giving Key

With the word


My Story

In 2019, my sister Maggie gifted me a Giving Key inscribed with the Hawaiian word "ho'omau", which means "to carry on or persevere". She gave me the key after we traveled to Hawaii to run the Honolulu Marathon, but instead, I wound up in the hospital with severe anemia brought on by my chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). (At that time, I had lived with CLL for 15 years and was being monitored regularly by my oncology team.) After a lovely three-day stay at the hospital for blood transfusions, I enjoyed the rest of my vacation and returned home for treatment. My marathon would wait for another time.

Fast forward four years, to April 2024. I am in Walt Disney World volunteering for a runDisney event, the Springtime Surprise weekend. Maggie and I volunteered at Finish Line Medals for the 10-mile race. A woman crossed the finish line and came to me for her medal. With tears welling up in her eyes, she asks "Can I hug you?" to which I reply "Of course!" She then tells me that she ran the race in honor of her best friend who died two months earlier. By that time, we're both in tears.

I happened to be wearing my "ho'omau" key that day, I explain the meaning of the word and its significance to me, and I tell her I need to give it to her. More tears. She asks me if she can give it to her friend's parents. Absolutely!! Words carry so much meaning, and they can mean different things to different people. I am so proud of that complete stranger for persevering and finishing her race, and I hope she inspires others. Sometimes when life gets difficult, moving forward is just the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.

 Jennifer B. Nilles

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