Beau Biden's forever run
By Richard L. Gaw
"As adults, we have a legal and moral obligation to stand up and speak out for children who are being abused. These children cannot speak for themselves."
On June 6, 2015, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden was eulogized at a Roman Catholic Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, following a courageous battle with brain cancer that took his life one week before. He was 46.
In pew after pew, hundreds of dignitaries sat side-by-side with everyday Delawareans -- policy makers and homemakers, the elected and the neglected, the privileged and those hardened by life. They sat shoulder to shoulder in the old church, bound together not by standing but by the quiet whisper of a collective mourning.
The day before, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill personally greeted hundreds of Delawareans, who had wrapped themselves around the block of St. Anthony's for hours just for the chance to lean their condolences into the chest of Beau's father, stepmother, siblings Ashley and Hunter, wife Hallie and children Natalie and Hunter.
"Beau Biden brought to his work a mighty heart, he brought to his family a mighty heart," President Barack Obama said in his eulogy. He praised the younger Biden for his refusal to run for the Senate when the path was open for him to follow in his father's footsteps, because he was too busy fighting to protect children who were victims of abuse, in his role as the state's attorney general.
To honor and continue the legacy of Biden's commitment to protecting children, particularly those who are the victims of abuse and neglect, the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children was formed in June 2015. The idea of the foundation grew out of Biden's commitment to bring Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children to Delaware in 2010, during the time that he and the Delaware Department of Justice prosecuted Dr. Earl Bradley, a former pediatrician in Lewes, who was indicted in 2010 on 471 charges of molesting, raping and exploiting 103 child patients. Darkness to Light works to end child abuse through education, raising awareness, sharing resources, and fostering a network of committed prevention advocates.
Joshua Alcorn, chief engagement officer at the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, who also served as Biden's political director for two years, pointed to the Foundation's shield at its new offices on the campus of the Delaware Law School.
"We talk a lot here at the Foundation about fulfilling Beau's promise to Delaware, and part of the way we do that is reminding people what Beau's promise was," he said "It's keeping the Beau Biden Foundation shield in front of people, in order to remind them of his promise - a Delaware free of child abuse -- where kids don't have to worry about being abused, neglected or harmed by a bully or any kind of predator."
The outreach of the Foundation does more than just talk on Beau's behalf. Last year, that outreach took to the hills of one of the most historic and emblematic properties in Delaware.
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It seemed, in a way, pure destiny that the inaugural Beau Biden Memorial Trail Race would take place on the grounds of the Granogue Estate.
The property's 515 acres, owned by the du Pont family, was familiar ground to the Biden family. Joe's sister Valerie once lived on the property for a while, and when Joe was a Delaware senator, he and Irenee du Pont would race two of the four 1978 Honda XL 250 motorbikes du Pont owned, around the Granogue property.
"Joe's brother-in-law bought one of the bikes, so it seemed like the natural thing to do was to get Joe one, and he rode it around the property," du Pont said. "Joe is very able with any kind of a motor-driven vehicle. He can drive anything from an 18-wheeler on down."
Beau ran everywhere -- after long days as the state's attorney general, up and down Kennett Pike and around Rockford Park; on stolen moments on business trips; along Savannah Road in Lewes, during the time he and the Delaware Department of Justice prosecuted Bradley.
"Every seriously committed runner runs for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that this is a safe place, where you can process things, turn things of, and focus on one thing which is 'Step and breathe, step and breathe,'" Alcorn said. "I get the sense that this is one of the things that Beau loved about running.
"We were on a trip to Texas, and we did Austin in the morning, then Dallas, and we had to overnight in Dallas because we were flying the next morning to St. Louis. There is a very nice trail in Dallas that had just been built and opened. We were flying into Dallas after an exhausting day, and Beau told me, 'I can't wait to run on this new trail.' We land, and after a super-long day and a string of long days ahead of us, Beau goes out for a run on that trail."
Soon after the Beau Biden Foundation was formed, Beau's brother Hunter contacted Ed Camille at the Trail Creek Outfitters in West Chester about sponsoring a memorial race for his brother. From these original conversations between Biden and Camille, the concept was then shared with Lauri Webber of Velo Amis, who had collaborated with the Trail Creek Outfitter Series on several trail races -- some of them on the Granogue estate.
Begun in 2010 by Webber and colleagues, the purpose of Velo Amis is two-fold: It advocates and financially supports local cyclists, and partners with local non-profit organizations, individuals and causes to raise funding. Since its founding, Velo Amis has donated over $70,000 to individuals and more than one dozen non-profit organizations.
The first Beau Biden Memorial Trail Race took place on the morning of March 19, 2016 at Granogue, when more than 500 runners - including Biden's friends from the Department of Justice, his fellow members from the Delaware National Guard, and his closest friends -- ran through the woods and trails and tunnels in his memory. Close to $6,000 was raised for the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children.
"Beau had raced there before, and he had told me stories of growing up riding dirt bikes on the property," Webber said. "Logistically speaking, Granogue was also a much easier place to have a race, since Velo Amis has been putting on events at Granogue for many years."
In designing the 5k/10k course at Granogue -- known to be among the most challenging courses in the mid-Atlantic region -- Webber started from the existing trail infrastructure, in considering how to best accommodate two different race courses using the same start/finish area, as well as giving visitors great vista points from which to see the race.
"We design the 5K course to be easier and less technical, while still being challenging and the 10K course uses as much single track trail as possible and designed to be very challenging but still fun," Webber said. "We also keep in mind maximizing viewing for friends and family of the racers, water stop placement, access for emergency vehicles and personnel. We also believe strongly that we don’t want to have the exact same course year to year."
Webber reserved the most praise for the Beau Biden Memorial Trail Race for Irenee du Pont.
"At Granogue, we are extremely fortunate in that Irenee allows us maximum freedom in design so we may decide to put in new trails or revive old trails," she said. "When we want to do another event, we tend to default to Granogue, because we know that Irenee is willing to work with us. He thanks us for putting on events. It's incredible to me how generous both Irenee and his wife have been to us."
"This race has nothing to do with me, I can assure you," du Pont said. "It's a nice piece of property, and if you encourage people to enjoy the rite of responsible trespass on it, it means that more people can enjoy the property. Granogue is a busy, busy place."
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Both the initial Beau Biden Memorial Trail Race -- and its second run, which will take place at Granogue on March 18, 2017 -- are just two of the many ways the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children is making a solid footprint in Delaware, and beyond. Over the past year, the Foundation has educated over 1,500 Delawareans in Stewards of Children training seminars, while continuing to strengthen child protection laws for children in Delaware.
"We go out and we actually meet with people, and we train them face to face," said Patricia "Patty" Dailey Lewis, the executive director of the Foundation. "We sit with kids and we talk about things that maybe they don't know about, like sexting and sextortion and cyber bullying. Beau was passionately committed to making sure that kids were empowered to stand up for each other, as well as themselves."
"One of the things that excites us is how we create our own programming, to determine our next steps for growth," Alcorn said. "They're already creating programs across state lines. geographical opportunities for growth, but there are also programmatic opportunities for growth. Now that we've figured out what we're good at in Delaware, we want to explore how to continue to grow both geographically and programatically."
Dailey Lewis said that when Beau was considering running for Delaware attorney general, he took her aside.
"He told me, 'Patty, you've spent your entire career [as an attorney] protecting kids, and I want you to know that this will be the centerpiece of what I want to do. Let's talk about what it will look like,'" she said.
"I told a group of young women I spoke to last week that 'I wish for you that one time in your career, you meet one person who feels what you feel, who encourages you in everything you do, who challenges you, who argues with you, but who you know has your back, and who's back you will have, no matter what.'
"For me, Beau Biden was that person."
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For the many who were not fortunate enough to be at St. Anthony of Padua Church on June 6, 2015, they sat silent on their couches, watching the services on their televisions. They asked empty questions. 'Why did this have to happen?' and 'What if he had lived?'
Nineteen months removed from that day, many of those who knew Beau or merely knew of him, continue to ask those unanswerable questions, and look for the continuing flame of his life's passion -- to protect children in Delaware.
Moments after his son Beau introduced him at the 2008 Democratic Convention, then Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden gave the millions of people who were watching that night some sound advice.
"Barack Obama and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story," he said. "Mine began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then Wilmington, Delaware, with a dad who fell on hard economic times, but who always told me, "Champ, when you get knocked down, get up. Get up.'"
The words have been shared by Biden so many times that they have also become ours. We like hearing them. They are comforting. They are what helps sustain us in our darkest times. The power of the message has also served as the solvent that has bound together one foundation, one fundraising agency and Delaware's most prominent family on a race that is run in his son's name.
"Beau Biden was the most compassionate man I have ever met in my life," Dailey Lewis said. "He truly cared about people, and he really wanted to make their lives better. Some people are politicians because they want people to pay attention to them, and then there are people who are politicians because they want to be public servants, and pay attention to people. Beau was clearly the latter.
"Of the many promises he made, this one will live long after him, because it's getting done."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail email@example.com .
To learn more about the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, visit www.beaubidenfoundation.org, or follow the Foundation on Facebook, at facebook.com/BeauBidenFdn.
If you would like more information about Velo Amis and the complete roster of events in Trail Creek Outfitters Series, visit www.trailcreekseries.org.
If you would like to apply for a grant or make a donation to Velo Amis, visit www.veloamis.org, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second Beau Biden Trail Race will take place on March 18, 2017, on the Granogue Estate, 2900 Montchanin Road, Wilmington, Del. 19807. To register online, visit www.runreg.com/beau. The online registration deadline is March 16, 2017 at 8 p.m.