• Race: Join Team CMB when you register online for the Seven Bridges Marathon. Learn more about the races at www.sevenbridgesmarathon.com.
• Donate: Email firstname.lastname@example.org to give to the Christian Bryant Foundation.
• Connect: Find Team CMB on Facebook to keep up with the latest updates.
Eighteen-year-old Christian Moseley Bryant was dying. Not quickly or dramatically, but through a slow, steady journey that kept her in the hospital for 115 of her last 365 days.
One morning before daybreak, Gretchen Castleberry, a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital at Erlanger, stepped into Bryant's room.
"She was having a particularly rough night, and I was rubbing her head, and I said, 'Christian, can I pray for you?' " she said. "And she just looked right at me and nodded her head, so I did. And I kept rubbing her head, and she just closed her eyes and leaned her head into my hand. It was a really sweet moment with her and something that forever affected me as a nurse."
Even though Bryant had a breathing tube in and couldn't talk, Castleberry developed a strong bond with the teenager during the last two months of her life.
"She and I never carried on a dialogue, but there were many times she was awake and alert and could interact with me with head nods and squeezing my hand," she said. "The thing that really touched my heart about her was that she was such a committed and devoted Christian."
Bryant was a senior at Chattanooga's Girls Preparatory School and loved to run cross-country. After she died on May 26 due to complications from the treatment she received for leukemia, Castleberry wanted to do something to honor her memory. The idea for Team CMB was born.
Team CMB members pledge to run a race in Chattanooga's Seven Bridges Marathon Oct. 21 in Bryant's honor.
"I thought since we have this great local event," Castleberry said, "why not remember her and raise money for the foundation by doing something she loved?"
So far, about 150 people have joined Team CMB and plan to run, jog or walk the Two Bridges 5K, the Four Bridges Half-Marathon or the Seven Bridges Marathon.
The team members are raising money for the Christian Bryant Foundation through T-shirt sales, private donations and sponsors.
Bryant's family started the foundation as a way to thank Children's Hospital for the exceptional care Bryant received, said her mom, Robyn Bryant. The money the foundation raises will be used to improve the hospital.
One of the foundation's first potential projects is to renovate the pediatric intensive care unit's family waiting room, she said.
"Right now there is a room but not really a nice place for families to wait and gather when something has happened to their child and they are in the intensive care unit," she said.
The foundation wants to raise at least $100,000 for the renovation, and hopes Team CMB will help to bolster the fundraising. The group already has sold about 300 T-shirts.
This is the first year people can join a team for the Seven Bridges Marathon events, a change Scenic City Multisports director Ken Radley made specifically for Team CMB.
"It's taken off like a rocket," he said. "They represent about 10 percent of registrations for all the events. It's fun to watch."
No one expected the team to grow so quickly, Robyn Bryant said.
"Before, I never realized how many people were following Christian's journey and her race," she said. "But when they found out about Team CMB, we got so many requests saying, 'We want to do this too.' We had no idea it would be as large as it is."
Individuals can join Team CMB when they register for a race at the Seven Bridges Marathon website. They can keep up with the team's efforts by joining the Team CMB group on Facebook, Castleberry said.
Registration is open until the race sells out or Oct. 19.
Bryant said Team CMB is a fitting way to honor her daughter's memory.
"We like to refer to her whole journey after her diagnosis last year as a race," she said. "She ran the race for life, and she had a great finish. It's not the finish that we were hoping for, but we know she's fine now, and she's in a good place."
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...