Who’s up for a run and for supporting two important causes in memory of a great guy? This Thanksgiving my family will mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of my dad, Jerry Oscherwitz. In his too few 63 years he lived with passion and energy, by day a Kosher meat executive and marketing whiz and after hours a fitness-obsessed aerobics instructor and exerciser, lifting and running with buddies at Chicago’s Lawson YMCA when not teaching there, and raising the median age of aerobics instructors at the East Bank Club where at 50 he was blasting Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer and telling silly jokes that he collected and carried with him in a tiny spiral notebook he kept in his back jeans pocket. Some summer Sunday mornings I huffed and puffed through the exercise classes he led in the park outside then-Cardinal Bernardin’s house at LaSalle and Lake Shore Drive. The scene was vintage “Jerry O”, an older guy with his boom box, a ratty t-shirt and gym shorts and a rockin’ music selection, dancing around, yelling out instructions and loving every minute of it. His energy and joy was infectious, his classes always packed. He firmly believed in exercise as a cure for stress and would almost daily ask me “did you exercise today?” This was one of his great life passions. So what better way to honor him?
After a break of at least 15 years, I decided to take up running again, inspired by a confluence of events that led up to an aha moment, as if Dad was yelling ‘Go Julie!” as he had at many a school show or when watching me sprint at the end of a run.
Together with family and friends, I am participating in the 8K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning in my dad’s old neighborhood, Lincoln Park. The run is raising money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, so your registration will help support that important organization. If not running or in addition, I encourage you to donate in my father’s memory to No Shame on U, a Chicago-based organization that aims to reduce stigma and encourage openness about mental health issues. This cause is close to my heart and would have been wholeheartedly supported by my dad, who emphasized the importance of attending to feelings non-judgmentally and openly before most people were focused on this critical issue.
So please get On the Go for Jerry O, by walking, running or just making a donation, in the spirit of my sorely missed but so vividly remembered father who spread laughter, keen interest in and compassion for others and a relentless commitment to exercise as a way of taking care of our inner and outer selves. More times than I could count he told me to face fear and challenges and just “GO FOR IT!” So I am. And I hope you’ll join me!
If you’re running or walking, click on the Turkey Trot link. If you’d like to donate to No Shame on U, click on that link. Thanks!