Attending a Vampire Diaries convention in Chicago in early April and networking with people is what eventually led to Jessica Ulery receiving one of the few openings for the Peachtree Road Race.
Ulery, a Logansport resident, will be running in the 10-kilometer race July 4 in Atlanta, Ga., for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. Ian Somerhalder is known for his roles as Damon on “Vampire Diaries,” a television show on The CW, and Boone on “Lost.”
In a race that usually draws 60,000 people, Ulery said it is very difficult to get a spot. This year, however, the race’s organizers have partnered with charities such as ISF to give them spots for 10 of their supporters.
Ulery, a full-time preschool teacher at Sonshine Daycare and mother in a blended family of nine children, said she first heard about the actor, Somerhalder, through the television series “Lost” and “Vampire Diaries.” From there she learned about his foundation in October 2012.
According to the ISF website, the foundation views the environmental and global problems and challenges as interconnected and co-dependent, so solutions must be interconnected, too. Various campaigns with the foundation work to distribute funds and resources toward global conservation, ending animal cruelty, creating mobility by supporting the youth and more.
Ulery went to the Vampire Diaries convention in Chicago where she met various people and was made aware of the race openings. She was first told the slots were filled, but after a cancellation she was able to secure a place.
“I met a woman who told me she would run the race if she was able, but because of health reasons she couldn’t,” Ulery said. “She told me she would fly me out to Atlanta for the race.”
That woman, Sue Cason, is now sponsoring Ulery’s flight to Atlanta. She is also raising awareness for Ulery’s race and has donated twice to her CrowdRise account.
“The biggest thing is I was going to run the race but was physically unable to do so,” Cason said. “Jessica and I really clicked talking about her journey. She has come so far.”
Being able to participate in the race holds a special place in Ulery’s life because she lost 224 pounds between 2008 and 2009 and has kept the weight off.
“I couldn’t walk one mile when I was younger, let alone run one, so this is surreal for me,” Ulery said. “Being one of a few people selected and from Logansport is incredible.”
Ulery said after coming full circle and conquering that battle, she can’t think of a greater honor than running for a great cause.
Faith is important to Ulery and has motivated her through training.
“One of the reason I’m able, I feel, to do anything is because I have a very strong faith,” Ulery said. “My faith is very important to me.”
Ulery, who attends Main Street United Methodist Church, said she wears a Never Give Up bracelet that came with Scripture every day when she runs. It’s one of the things that keeps her going.
Each runner representing the ISF must raise a minimum amount of $250.
“My goal is ten times the required $250,” Ulery said. “I think it’s very doable.”
All the money raised will go to the ISF.
Ulery said ISF’s approach is both revolutionary and timely, encompasses people of all ages and ethnicities and empowers them to make a difference. She said she had to be a part of it.
“I cannot think of a more valuable lesson than to teach my children the importance of contributing to the world in a meaningful way and being a part of something greater than themselves,” Ulery said.
She has been training for the race and will continue to as the date approaches. Ulery is running three days a week and increasing by half a mile every week. She is also doing cross-training and strength training three days. She takes one day of rest a week to let her muscles rebuild.
Ulery, who moved to Logansport from Lafayette in 1999, said is excited to represent Logansport in the race.
“All of my children have been raised here in Logansport and that means a lot to me,” Ulery said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. You can make an impact in the community and make it a better place.”
Social media has been an important factor in raising awareness for Ulery’s race, she said. She said it’s been positive and through Facebook and Twitter she has been able to get the word out.
As the race approaches, Ulery will continue to prepare and train.
Cason, who will be at the race supporting Ulery and taking photographs, said she is looking forward to helping Ulery’s goals come true.
“I’m hoping the fundraiser will hit its goals and I hope our friendship continues to grow,” Cason said. “I’m happy she is making a dream come true.”
Amie Sites is community news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5150.