“I delivered a beautiful baby girl on June 17, after being incarcerated for six days,” Cynthia said. “She had no addictions. She died on July 25, 1994, of pneumonia while in foster care.
“I decided that if I wasn’t doing what I was doing to get drugs, I would have been at home to care for my own baby, and I have not looked back. I left the prison on Nov. 25, 1994. I have been clean ever since.”
Way more than clean. She has rebuilt her life.
Before her baby’s death, she had seven other children, the last two also given up to foster care. But now, at 58, she is in contact with all seven.
“We have a family night at one of our houses once a month,” she said. “We just had one on Saturday at my older son’s house. He’s 38.”
Her redemption story gets better still. She went back to school late in life, first to get a degree from Community Learning Center, then Community College of Philadelphia.
And last June, she graduated from Drexel University with a bachelor of science degree. This month she got a job as a counselor.
Cynthia has tried to improve her physical health, as well.
Three years ago, she stood at the finish of the Broad Street Run, and was inspired by the look on the face of her good friend and workout partner, Wanda Ellis-Beaver, as she crossed the line. Cynthia resolved that she would register for and complete the race, now known as the Blue Cross Broad Street Run.
It took until this year to get into the race. She’s been working hard to get ready — walking, swimming, working with a personal trainer, and going to an acupuncturist, chiropractor and others to keep healthy and keep moving.
She is dedicating this race to her late mother, Lillie Toney Gripper.
“I promised my mother some years ago that I would make her proud of me,” Cynthia said. “My mother is gone now, and has been for 22 years. She did not live to see me overcome the disease of addiction,” or all the good things that followed. “She always supported me, and had faith that I would overcome my addiction and succeed.
“I have lost 22 pounds,” Cynthia added, “and I am really working hard. I initially intended to power walk the run, but at the rate I am going I think I will end up at least sprinting a little.”
She adds, “This one’s for you, Mommy. I will finish the race in your honor. I will reach another goal.”
Contact Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michaelvitez