by Kristen Hislop
Your brother had to leave his business and his home. He had to send his family to Poland. Your father and aunt are in Kyiv holding strong with military strikes happening in nearby residential neighborhoods every ten minutes. Your mother was trapped in Egypt and after a number of flights arrived in the US and to your home. In the meantime, you are planning a 5K to honor the child you lost on your birthday at just a few weeks old. Yes, this was Olya Prevo-White's juggling act in April!
I met Olya through a triathlon training program at the Southern Saratoga Y. Right away I was drawn to her. You'll hear that from anyone in her wide circle. Strength, brilliance, kindness, intelligence, and warmth radiate form Olya. She came to the US to matriculate at Mount Holyoke, my grandmother's alma mater, from Ukraine. Never one to step down from a challenge, Olya tackled triathlon, but it wasn't enough to just do a race. She joined the Team in Training ranks and raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. All along Olya has been thrown challenges. Masterfully tackling each head one she was dealt one that would forever change her. She and her husband Chris lost their dear son Sasha on Christmas Eve - also Olya's birthday. The following spring I received a note asking about setting up a 5K. Of course, Olya had a team ready to rally around her for the 1st Sasha's Run Along the Hudson. At the first event I meet families who said the event was an amazing part of the healing process.
Each year since, Olya has thrown herself into planning and executing an incredible superhero event. This year it was yet even more challenging. She had begun the planning when the first military strikes hit. Her family was directly affected, and she couldn't just sit and worry. Springing into action, Olya pivoted the event to support the children of Ukraine. Her actions raised over $30,000 that has gone directly to organizations in Ukraine that have already gotten money to children. This year at Sasha's Superhero Run we were treated to the Ukranian National Anthem at the start. Athletes showed up in blue and yellow to show support. Raffle tickets were a hit with many hoping to win some amazing photographs from Ukraine, Ukranian flags, and other wonderful items. The age group awards were exquisite calendars with each month featuring a beautiful photograph illustrating the beauty, history and strength of Ukraine.
One lucky raffle winner, Judy Lynch was there to support her Team in Training friend. Judy won an Irish basket with a mystery envelope. Upon opening the envelope, she found a crisp $100 bill. Immediately she turned and said “Where is Olya? I want to donate this back.” Judy said "Whenever I win money from a charity, I donate it. As soon as I saw the $100 I knew I had to donate it to Olya." Judy participates in a Team in Training event every year to honor her daughter Katie. She understands Olya's loss. She adds, "There's a special connection with people I've met through Team in Training. Everyone understands who I am and why I'm there. There's support, sharing, and mutual understanding."
Olya said it is the same with the families of babies and children who passed before their time. It truly takes superhuman strengths to go on after a child dies. It was an absolutely beautiful and warm day for Sasha's run. He was definitely smiling down and proud of his mother and family. Olya will continue to collect donations for the children of Ukraine through Sasha's Run website until the end of May. https://sashasrun.com/ She is also planning another fundraiser so follow https://www.facebook.com/sashasrun.
The day after the run, Olya was still processing. She told me, "I am beyond overwhelmed by everyone's support. I am not sure I can even talk about it eloquently yet. Every year, I felt amazing after Sasha's Superhero Run, knowing that the money raised did so much good. But this year, all the dots connected: “We are doing the work we were called to do..." She adds "I wish there would be no need for it." We stand with you, Olya.
NPR listed these charities as being effective in helping Ukraine and legitimate without having CEOs who are paid in the millions. This is a big list, but if you find one that resonates with you, give to it. As you can tell from the unprovoked bombings witnessed on civilian areas by the Russians as witnessed on news programs, Ukraine needs all the help you can give it.
UNICEF supports health, nutrition, HIV prevention, education, safe drinking water, sanitation and protection for children and families caught in the conflict in Ukraine.
"Heavy weapons fire along the line of contact has already damaged critical water infrastructure and education facilities in recent days," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine M. Russell in a statement.
Médecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders
MSF runs a range of activities in Ukraine working with local volunteers, organizations, health care professionals and authorities to help people travel to health care facilities and access prescribed medications.
Voices of Children
The Ukrainian organization's Charitable Foundation helps provide psychological and psychosocial support to children affected by the armed conflict, according to its website.
Voices of Children's efforts of support for kids include art therapy, video storytelling, providing mobile psychologists and even individual help for families.
Sunflower of Peace
The nonprofit organization is raising money to prepare first aid medical tactical backpacks for paramedics and doctors on the front lines.
Each backpack is designed for groups of 5 to ten people and includes an array of first aid supplies — such as bandages, anti-hemorrhagic medicine and medical instruments, according to the organization's Facebook page.
International Committee of the Red Cross
This Switzerland-based organization is aiming to help people affected by the conflict and support the work of the Ukrainian Red Cross.
Save the Children
Save the Children, based in London, helps to deliver lifesaving aid to vulnerable children in Ukraine and around the world. According to its website, the organization says it is on the ground in the U.S. and other parts of the world "delivering essential humanitarian aid."
"We are gravely concerned for children in Ukraine, Afghanistan and around the world who might be caught in the middle of armed conflict, forced to flee their homes and exposed to injury, hunger and sub-zero temperatures," the organization writes in a statement online.
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
The international organization aims to provide emergency assistance to families in Ukraine — providing aid such as cash assistance and opportunities for resettlement in the U.S.
"UNHCR is working with the authorities, UN and other partners in Ukraine and is ready to provide humanitarian assistance wherever necessary and possible. To that effect, security and access for humanitarian efforts must be guaranteed," the organization said in a statement.
CARE is raising money for its Ukraine Crisis Fund, which will provide immediate aid including food, water, hygiene kits, support services and direct cash assistance.
The humanitarian organization aims to raise $20 million and help at least 4 million Ukrainians. It says it will prioritize women and girls, families and the elderly.
International Medical Corps
The global nonprofit has been delivering primary health care and mental health services in eastern Ukraine since 2014, and is raising funds to expand those services for people affected by the latest conflict.
It says cold weather and economic insecurity in the leadup to Thursday's attack have left nearly 3 million Ukrainians relying on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs, a number that is certain to rise nationwide.
Its Ukraine team is preparing to deploy mobile medical teams to provide emergency and primary health services, mental health and psychosocial services and COVID-19 awareness and prevention services for people who have been displaced.