Running for a Cause

Marathoner Linda Sanders and Team I Run 4 Ultra head to Africa to raise awareness for ADHD.

WRITTEN BY AMBER KLINCK | PHOTOGRAPHED BY JEFF BERTING

Life comes with its own set of challenges—that’s unavoidable. How we choose to deal with those challenges, however, is up to us. When life threw a curve ball at Manhattan Beach resident Linda Sanders, the founder and chair of the board of Hope So Bright, she went in search of perspective and poured her energy into giving back.

“I founded [Hope So Bright] close to three years ago, after my divorce,” Sanders explains. “I’ve always been a giver, but after my divorce I thought, ‘What should I do with this pain? Should I reminisce over what I did wrong, what I did right and what I should have done better?’”

Instead Sanders started spending time in the cancer ward of the children’s hospital. “I observed people going back and forth, kids in pain and the desperation of their parents,” Sanders notes. “I realized that [what I was going through], although it was painful, was nothing compared to what was happening with these kids or what their parents were feeling.”

With a sense of gratitude for her own children’s well-being, Sanders decided to form a foundation where she could focus her time and energy into something positive while helping kids in need.

One of six children, she was born in Spain and raised in Mexico. Life with her family was filled with love and support, but Sanders was sensitive to the needs of others around her, including animals.

“I used to wake up in the middle of the night in Mexico when I was young, maybe around 10 years old, and go out into the streets and steal dogs that were chained, not being fed or needed help,” Sanders says. After taking in the neglected animals, she would nurse them back to health and adopt them out.

That same give-back nature she had as a child has manifested itself today into the Hope So Bright Foundation—a nonprofit organization with the goal of promoting “awareness, collaboration, education, resources and advocacy for children with learning disabilities.” Through numerous events, participation in international marathons and the I Run 4 Ultra campaign, Hope So Bright works to raise awareness and funding for their cause.

Their most recent endeavor: the Marathon des Sables, widely considered the toughest footrace on earth. Taking place in the Sahara Desert, with more than 156 miles of sand dunes and temperatures surpassing 100º, runners carry their gear on their backs and head out for the physical accomplishment of a lifetime.

This year’s runners for Team I Run 4 Ultra were Marco Olmo (Italy), Harvey Lewis (U.S.), Jason Schlarb (U.S.), Ricardo Mejia Hernandez (Mexico) and Carlos Sa (Portugal). The official end of the race was April 15, with an additional open 6k race on the 16th dedicated to UNICEF.

After 10 long days of travel in Africa, it’s clear to see how committed Sanders is to her cause. Still, with so much on her plate, her main focus is her two boys. While giving them the support and love they need, Sanders makes sure their eyes are open to the world around them.

“My boys travel all over,” she notes. “I make sure that my kids don’t get the full volume of what’s going on in the world, because they’re too young, but I want to give them a little bit of empathy. I want to make sure they know that they are lucky to have what they have … so when they become adults, they too can give back.”

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Southbay Health | 2016

South Bay Magazine-June 2016