This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Gals for Cal triathlon team spearheaded by the amazing Cindy Quitzau. Cindy is mom to triplets Calvin, Jake, and Emily. Cal is impacted by Duchenne muscular dystrophy and his brother, Jakey, has both autism and Down Syndrome.
In honor of Mother’s Day, we interviewed Cindy to hear just what keeps her going each day and what motivates her to continue to support Jett Foundation through Gals for Cal each and every year.
Q: How did you first hear about Jett Foundation? Why do you continue to support and stay involved?
Cindy: I first heard about Jett Foundation from another mom of a child with Duchenne, who quickly became a fast friend of mine. We were at an event or conference and she had asked if I had met Christine McSherry. I hadn’t yet so when we got home I connected with her.
Initially, I really wanted to start something local because I felt that my network would be able to get around that if it was local and more intimate. So I started working with Christine. My son was newly diagnosed, I didn’t know what I was getting into on the road ahead but she already had so much more experience than I did and was just very supportive and helpful. I have to say she just made it very easy for me to support and want to get involved. She listen to my ideas, as crazy as they were.
Once we started sharing Cal’s diagnosis, I had friends come to me who wanted to do something to support him. It took us the better part of a year to come clean with all our family and friends about Cal’s diagnosis. These were the people who love our children like their own, so it took us quite a while to finally get the word out. When we did, we had friends that were calling and they told me they wanted to do a triathlon. I belly-laughed; the only experience I had with a triathlon was watching Iron Man on tv. But they talked me through it and I realized it was something I could handle. That’s how Gals for Cal started. We pulled together a team of 20 and the rest is sort of history.
We’ve empowered women to do things they never thought about doing before and to do it for something bigger than themselves.
Q: You are constantly giving of yourself, to your family, your children, to Jett Foundation and your community. What is your favorite thing to do to take care of yourself through that? How do you recenter yourself?
Cindy: Like so many moms, we do what we have to do because we have to do it. There’s no time to really sit and feel sorry for yourself. I think it really is girlfriend time. I always try to really make it a point to make time for my girlfriends. My favorite thing to do is to get away with my girlfriends and get some girl time. We might not be sitting around talking about my problems, but we might be talking about everyone’s problems. Or no problems at all, just enjoying fun and being social together.
Q: What gives you strength and fuels you to keep going?
Cindy: My children. At the end of the day, I want them to have the best life they can have. And I think that they are really what my focus is. When we meet small milestones, it's a big deal. When any of them do something, it's a big deal for us. So I would say they are what keeps me going. They are the reason I carry on. They are the reason I do what I do. Its for them and for their future.
Q: Who inspires you? Who is your hero?
Cindy: My mom. She recently passed away and has very much been at the forefront of my mind lately. My mom has always inspired me because she lost both of her own parents when she fourteen within the same year. She was an only child and was then raised by her aunt and uncle. Throughout my whole life, my mom, ever year that she lived beyond the age of her parents, she would recognize how lucky and blessed she was because she lost them so young. She really instilled that sense of family in us and she did a really great job raising my brothers and I. And a lot of who she was was based on the loses in her life.
Just a couple days before she passed away, I was so lucky to have time with her, and had the opportunity to share with her the things that I appreciated most and wanted to thank her. I felt very compelled to make sure she knew certain things before she left us. She was kind of unresponsive the last few days but even though she was pretty quiet, we would all just carry on conversations in the room with her. I told her that she was such a strong woman for us, and that I really believe that she passed that strength onto me and taught me how persevere through adversity and challenges. When I said that she suddenly just bursted out as a clear as a bell, with every ounce of energy that she had left, “Stay strong.” And then she just sort of closed her eyes and laid back to rest on her side again like she had been before. It was such a powerful moment for me.
She is my hero. It’s really hard to pick one, I do have many other heroes, but mostly my mom, my children, and my husband for putting up with us all.
Q: What advice do you have for moms who may be going through similar experiences in their lives?
Cindy: Connect. Connect with other families who are going through similar experiences. I really think that by serving others and by doing whatever you can, by getting involved, helps you in turn. The friendship we made, and Cal made, by connecting early on have been very near and dear to our hearts. Many of them have since gotten involved in our triathlon team or in other ways. Find children in the same age range when they are young because it does get hard. Connect with others, don’t hide, as hard as it is. Get out there and keep your sense of humor, that definitely does help.
Q: How have your experiences changed you?
Cindy: They have made me a better person. I am a lot more patient and understanding of other. It has shown me I never want other people to struggle with some of the struggles that my families have faced. I feel like it made me grow up. Put on my big girl pants and stop thinking about myself. Think instead about what I can do and how I can help. I honestly don’t want to see others going through what we have gone through, living with Duchenne, living with Down syndrome and autism. It has challenged us all. And it has made us all better people. Even Cal, it is remarkable how positive he is an his outlook. He doesn’t see himself as disabled and that helps change our perspectives, as well.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about being a mom? What’s the best thing?
Cindy: I think balance is definitely the hardest thing of being a mom. Balancing everything and everyone. It's always hardest trying to make time for yourself because we are so busy. I have been super lucky to have the best girlfriends in the whole wide world. I’m so lucky to have them and friends of friends who support us.
The best thing everyday is waking up and seeing smiles on faces. I’m in the teenage years so it's really hard to get those, there’s lots of whining and complaining that comes along with it but I have to tell you our best moments are when we are being silly and happy together. We don’t have to be doing much to enjoy that time, but just celebrating those little things are the best.
Cindy and her team of gals are looking for more women to join this year's Gals for Cal team on September 9th at the Hopkinton Title 9 Tri (for women only.) All levels of athletic ability are welcome to join their team of strong, empowered women challenging Duchenne together. Visit https://www.jettfoundation.org/gals-for-cal-dudes-against-duchenne/ to join the gals today.