Running to see the world

Mike Flynn calls Sydney, Australia, home. When he’s not there, he lives in Bali, Indonesia, which is where he is now.

The photographer is headed out this week, coming to run the Kauai half marathon on Sunday.

Now, he’s not incredibly fast, so he won’t be competing for first place.

He’s not one of those trying to run a marathon in every state.

Nor is he one of those who runs daily.

So why in the world is he flying more than 6,000 miles to be here for this 13.1-mile race, which will be his longest?

Charity.

Not his. But one that’s near and dear to his heart, and near and dear to his mother’s heart, as well, who will be here to cheer him on.

The 37-year-old Flynn is running to raise money for Homicide Victims’ Support Group in Australia, where his mother, Randi Leighton, is a trauma counselor and where he has seen its benefits.

“Among the most traumatized when a loved one is lost through murder are children and young adults,” Flynn wrote. “Experience has shown us children of homicide require stronger and more direct support.”

His fundraising efforts will go toward construction of Grace’s Place, the world’s first residential trauma recovery center, which will provide support, therapeutic programs and learning skills on how to survive the trauma of losing a loved one.

It will be a place where children, young adults and their families can share experiences, receive counseling and learn new life skills on how to survive without their loved one.

While the project is receiving some government funding, it relies on people like Flynn to raise awareness and money and make “a huge difference in the lives of those affected by homicide.”

It’s imperative to do what we can to make the world around us better, Flynn said.

“We get caught up in our own personal lives,” he said in a phone interview with TGI. “It’s good to stop every now and then and give back to people.”

Flynn has long been an advocate for charities. As an event’s manager, he planned fundraisers. And he’s produced videos to support them. He’s organized and attended charity dinners. He’s volunteered with Redkite, an Australian cancer charity. The list of all the organizations he’s contributed to is long.

“When I look back on my life, I’ve been raising money wherever I could,” he said. “I have seen the emotional effect of having that support from people.”

Opportunities keep arising.

Now, he’s running for Grace’s Place.

“Normally I’m not a big runner,” he said. “I really haven’t done a lot of running.”

But when he does run, he loves it, especially when he’s traveling and visiting new places, which is often. It’s the best way to see sights, meet people and get to know more than you would otherwise, he said.

“I think it’s a fantastic way to engage with an environment and the culture when you are in the world,” he said. “When I’m traveling, I love to bring my running shoes with me and I will go off in the morning and I will go for the run to see how the world is waking up, wherever I am in the world.”

If you’re in a rental car or a bus or taxi, you’re separated from the very place you came to experience, Flynn said. You’re seeing it through a window.

Moving through life in places, on the run, provides that personal connection a photographer wants and needs, he said.

When you really take time to learn about the places you visit, you will find, Flynn said, that “the community around you is something special.”

This will be his and his mother’s first time on Kauai and it’s a trip they’re anxious to take.

“We’re looking forward to a wonderful time,” he said.

That includes Sunday’s race. He’s been training about eight weeks for the half marathon.

His mom will be there, cheering for her son.

And Flynn will be doing more than running. He’ll be watching, absorbing, sensing and coming to know what he can of Kauai.

And you can bet, he’ll return, camera in hand, to capture it through the lens.

“It looks awesome,” he said.

To help Flynn’s fundraising efforts, go to: give.everydayhero.com/au/grace-s-place-3

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