Volunteer Spotlight – Marie Manning and Sean Rohe

manning cropSeven years ago, my good friends Kyrah and Jon Varoli invited me to dinner – a dinner that quickly turned out to be an unveiled bribe.

“We’d like you to join our team and run the American Odyssey Relay,” they said. I laughed. No way was I running through the night and for more than three miles total! It didn’t take long for Kyrah and Jon to realize recruiting me as a runner was a losing mission, so they switched tactics. “If you won’t run, will you at least be our team’s volunteer?” I agreed.

And so begins the saga of Transition 29.

2009: My first Odyssey opened with a speeding ticket through the back roads of Maryland at 4:30 in the morning. This was the year that former DC mayor Adrian Fenty tried to outrun the Bucknell Fossils, a team where only the driver was under age 50. These self-proclaimed old farts could outrun, outpace and outperform any Odyssey team – and still find time to chat up a volunteer at five in the morning.

The kindness of the Fossils and many other runners notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure I cursed Kyrah and Jon multiple times that day for getting me into this. And I’m also quite sure that I vowed never to do it again.

2010: I clearly have a problem saying no, because I wound up with my second speeding ticket in the same spot in Maryland at about the same time – 4:30 a.m.

2011: Call this the year of the exploding toilet at the middle school’s men’s room. There really isn’t much more to say. The good news is that I avoided a three-peat speeding ticket.

2012: New year, new transition location. Alas, I got woefully lost and showed up in a panic. That frantic state only increased when I discovered what I believed to be a human corpse rolled up in some sort of fabric in the parking lot. I flipped through the volunteer manual to see what guidance it offered about finding a dead body at one’s transition. Nothing. I got out of the car, somehow setting the car alarm screaming. Turns out the dead body was very much alive and rather cranky at having been awakened by a clueless volunteer who couldn’t tell a sleeping bag from a body bag.

2013: This was the year that I bought orange flags to help guide cars through the small, quickly filled parking lot. And yes, I’ll admit that I probably was on a flag-waving power trip that year. Heck, I’m probably still on it.

2014: Sean and I got married less than a week after the relay. We’ll never forget the well wishes and cards, the runner who came through wearing a veil, and the framed lovebird print. I wish we had gotten the names of all these wonderful people, but flagging down cars and tracking runners took priority. To those who helped us celebrate, THANK YOU. It made up for my THIRD American Odyssey speeding ticket.

2015: We celebrated our first anniversary at Transition 29. Really. To commemorate the occasion, we served cases of sparkling cider and bubbly water in champagne flutes. This was also the year in which, at age 45, I used a Port-a-Potty for the very first time.  At least, unlike 2011, it didn’t explode.

While Jon, who was partly responsible for introducing me to the Odyssey family, will be running this year, Kyrah will be sitting out, just about due to give birth. Since we’ve dealt with a corpse and a marriage at Transition 29, delivering a baby will just be another part of the job.

I’m also thinking that Kyrah’s oldest child is about ready to join the team. We could use another great volunteer at Transition 29. But after the exploding toilet, strange bodies on the ground and multiple speeding tickets, I think Lexia might be better off running. In fact, Kyrah, Jon, Sean and I will be counting on it.

Editor’s Note:  Do you have memories of Marie and Sean’s Odyssey wedding or anniversary celebrations?  Share them in a comment below – or just leave a note wishing this great volunteer couple a happy anniversary!

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