Luck of the Irish - Injured athletes overcome obstacles to participate in Madison Exchange Club race

By Ashton Edwards, Special to the Times


MADISON - This year’s Leprechaun Race Day was a phenomenal success from every angle. Most number of registrants, most runners ever, and just like in Ireland itself, the day after St. Patrick’s Day went from a fogbank hovering over the shoreline to a bright warm spring afternoon.

Two lovely lasses steal the show

But what made this year’s race stand out was the story of two vivacious lassies, shoreline residents who’ve endured very similar midlife setbacks. And, thanks to their guts, commitment to life, and adroit handling by the medical profession, both are emerging, recovering, physically adapting, and mentally dedicated to a positive outlook for the remainder of their lives.

Amidst their separate comeback trails, they arrived race day on Sunday morning at the Surf Club in Madison to complete Madison Exchange Club’s 20th Annual Leprechaun 2 Mile Walk. And walk they did, together…Erin Spaulding (from Branford) brandishing a cane wrapped in green ribbon (a pseudo-shillelagh), Colleen Kelly Alexander (from Clinton) using a walker.


They’ve got heart

This story would be totally amazing just if either Lass were able to stand at the starting line let alone complete the 2-mile jaunt along the shores of Long Island Sound.

Erin Spaulding has been recovering for two years from severe shoulder, neck and head injuries suffered when a large and very heavy wall cabinet fell on her. A tri-athlete who lives with her husband and three children in Branford, Erin is constantly undergoing cognitive and physical therapy as well as visits to a variety of specialist to assist her with recurring balance issues.

Colleen’s accident occurred this past October when she was run over by a delivery truck at the intersection of the Boston Post Road and Neck Road. She attributes just being alive today to the speedy and thorough assistance she received from neighbors and the Madison Ambulance EMT’s at the scene, and the Yale New Haven Hospital vigilance and care during her 40 days suffering in a coma. Colleen, also a tri-athlete who resides in Clinton, still has “hills to climb” as she just recently underwent her 12th surgery since the accident.

A friendship

A mutual friend of Erin and Colleen deserves the credit for bringing these two incredible ladies together.  Now Erin and Colleen do know one another….their lives are blended with upbeat attitudes and positive lifestyles, all of which is dedicated to being able to overcome their individual physical and mental obstacles.


“The day Erin and I met was a miracle for both of us...bittersweet, but giving new life to us both,” says Colleen.

Somewhere between six months and 2 years ago, Colleen and Erin were really suffering; Colleen was told she might never walk again let alone live, and Erin was over a year in therapy. Today, they’ve climbed out of desperate days to entering the final stages of healing inside and out.  Each is pledged to giving joy to life because “they firmly believe they made it through their dilemmas for a reason.”

Says Erin: “My accident and the two years of cognitive and physical therapy that have followed were life-altering (not threatening) in every respect of my life - as a parent, athlete and individual.”

What an entirely great new ending to what once was just a race…..