BY CHELSIE WYSE
PHOTOS BY BRYAN ESLER
Purpose. It’s what makes us feel important. It gives our lives meaning. For some its getting up early to start the coffee maker so the others can have their morning cup, or paying for the person waiting behind them in line. For others, it’s serving people, be it within the walls of a local chiropractic office or by being an empowerment to those around them.
Two Priority Healthy Champions show us how running cannot only improve your health, but help uncover purpose in the cadence.
Courtney Warsen has made it her personal mission to enrich the lives of others by focusing on health.
“Thinking about the population of people who don’t have homes because of health issues is what keeps me going,” says Warsen.
When she graduated from Aquinas College in May 2014, Warsen focused herself on the homeless population by interning with Dégagé Ministries in Grand Rapids.
“I fell in love with serving and helping people,” says Warsen. “Many of the individuals I served come bad circumstances. Most of them have lost hope. I want to help them discover a new vision and purpose for life.”
After spending some time impacting lives on South Division, Warsen found herself accepting a position with Rivertown Family Chiropractic in Grandville as a chiropractic assistant. Warsen works with clients who suffer from anything from minor aches to throbbing pain.
“People who come in have been feeling sick for so long being able to change their life in this way and get them healthy again is encouraging and very rewarding,” she says.
In addition to healing physical pain, Warsen heals emotional pain through The Grand Rapids Dream Center. The Dream Center began in Los Angeles by Matthew Barnett and Tommy Barnett, who gave it its mission to connect with others but not by focusing on taking people out of their local environment. According to Matthew and Tommy Barnett, the mission of The Dream Center is “reach people from within.” Through her involvement with The Dream Center, Warsen says she’s been gifted the opportunity to continue the work she was doing with Dégagé.
“We work alongside those who’ve lost their way or struggle with addictions. We help reconnect with their dream and their life,” says Warsen.
Helping others discover their purpose has helped Warsen discover hers. As a cross-country runner in high school, Warsen lapped the fields and did the races, but never thought to impact others through the sport. In January 2014, Warsen ran her first marathon and the light turned on. She began using her love for running as a way to support people and causes she cared about.
“I like running for a cause,” says Warsen. “Being able to fundraise and give back in this capacity makes me feel better about racing.”
Today, Warsen runs for a variety of causes, including Gran Fondo, My Team Triumph, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Using the gift of kindness and the sport of running, Warsen discovered not only her passion, but what she says is her “purpose.”
Sometimes our purpose in life isn’t as obvious. In fact, it can a little selfish. Until Jamie Peltier discovered that in order to better care for those around us, she needed to take care of herself first. Peltier has struggled with her weight for most of her life.
“I was on a track time in high school,” says Peltier, “but only because my friends were.”
She left the sport after shortly after high school. Peltier reunited with running a couple years ago, only to be left rejected.
“I felt like I was going to die. I absolutely hated it,” she says.
In June 2014, her husband, Kevin, encouraged her to try the Couch to 5K training app and to give running another chance. He said, “Just give the eight weeks of the program and see how it goes.”
Eight weeks came and she never looked back. Peltier is now a 5K veteran and she has even run her first 10K.
“When I came home [from running] that day, I was really emotional about it,” says Peltier. “This was a big deal for me; to recognize the big difference between me from a year ago and who I am today.”
Running has not only helped Peltier’s physical health but her mental health as well. Having struggled with anxiety and depression for most of her life, Peltier says she owes her newfound confidence and peace of mind to her mileage.
“Running gives me time to just be me. I don’t have to think about anything I don’t want to. I think about whatever I want or nothing at all,” says Peltier. “It’s my own little world.”
Because running awards Peltier the time she desires to be alone, she now finds herself getting closer with her husband and three kids. Her husband, Kevin, who is also a runner, will race alongside Peltier.
“He usually finishes first,” she says. “But having him encourage me and seeing him at the finish line means the world.”
Peltier has also seen her relationship with her 10-year-old son take on a new course.
“As my son gets older, it’s harder to find ways to connect,” she says. “But going out on a run with him has been awesome. We have time to talk. We’re active together. And watching him push himself has been encouraging.”
Now on the other side of the hill, Peltier finds purpose in empowering others to do the same.
“I want to encourage [women] to believe in themselves,” she says. “To let them know that they’re worth it. Whatever they do to make the changes, if it’s running or something else. They’re worth it and they’ll be amazed at what they can do.”
By caring for herself, Peltier has found new hope in darkness.
Finding our purpose in life isn’t always what they show us in the movies. Most times there isn’t a big flash of light or a vertigo-like feeling that overcomes us, leaving us wiser and with all the right ideas. It comes from setting ourselves aside and helping those around us, like Courtney Warsen. It’s about overcoming something we never thought we could do, like Jamie Peltier. Finding purpose sparks from the moments we take to slow down just a few extra beats, lend the other hand, or simply just keep going.
After all, life isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Join Courtney and Jamie at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5K, held April 19, 2015. Click here for more information and to register.