Melinda’s Backups™ set to once again participate in the Nashville Country Music Marathon, raising money for Malaria No More

Melinda’s Backups™ in the Country Music Marathon

Joy, pride, accomplishment, and elation … these were just some of the multitude of emotions filling the minds and hearts of many of the Backups last April as they took part in the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. Inspired by the opportunity to save lives, as well as by Melinda’s continual support of the international Malaria No More charity, members trained for the marathon for five months. The team of runners and cheerleaders supported each other daily in our community forum, offering training tips and schedules, advice for the marathon, and words of both wisdom and encouragement. The training process was long and sometimes challenging, but all members served to support and inspire one another. Through both donations and sponsorships, the Backups team was able to raise more than $9000 for the charitable organization, as well as to increase awareness of the foundation and the work that it does.

It comes as no surprise, then, that a team of Backups runners and cheerleaders eagerly signed on to participate in this year’s marathon, to be held on Saturday, April 25th. The group will once again be led by Sara, whose dedication to the cause has inspired many of the Backups to follow in her footsteps – footsteps that will be heard loud and clear in Nashville this spring.

Melinda joins the pre-race dinner“The success of our team last year exceeded all my expectations,” Sara said. “When I think back on that glorious day, I am filled with pride all over again. I am very excited about this year’s race, and hope it will be an even bigger success.” Sara’s isn’t alone in that hope – her wishes are echoed by the many members of the Backups team, as well as those supporting them via donations and sponsorships. One of the Backups’ most enthusiastic cheerleaders? Melinda herself.

“I don’t know how to put into words exactly how grateful and honored I am,,” she said, a bright smile on her face as she talked about her supporters’ participation in the marathon and their quest to raise money for Malaria No More. It is Melinda’s own dedication to the charity that originally inspired the Backups to participate in this race. When it comes to inspirational stories, many of the Backups have some of their own. Their journey through the streets of Nashville isn’t the only one they’ll take – for them, the marathon is a personal journey, as well. With determination, dedication, and diligence, the Backups continue to demonstrate that obstacles can indeed be overcome, that instead of roadblocks on the journey to success, they’re challenges waiting to be conquered.

“Each person in unique, each one put here for his or her own purpose, each one equipped with his or her own gifts to share with the world and each one with challenges to overcome in order to do so,” said Jena, one of the Backups who will be taking part in the half-marathon this April. Jena’s story is truly inspiration personified – the talented writer lost her eyesight shortly after birth and her light, movement, and shadow perception in her early twenties, but she hasn’t let that stop her.

melinda cheering on the team“For a very long time [after I lost my sight], I felt that it wouldn’t be possible for me to make a difference in the world,” she said. “My involvement with Malaria No More has caused me to realize that there are ways I can make a difference for others, and that even though I may not be able to do all that I want to do, my focus should be on the things I can do.” Jena has had to maneuver her way around many obstacles on the road to training for the half-marathon – along with the physical demands, she has had to overcome a lack of transportation and learning new exercises without the benefit of being able to see demonstrations of how those exercises are performed. And then there are the emotional challenges, such as rebuilding her self-confidence, changing her self concept into that of an athlete, and “keeping up with a sighted group in a ‘sighted activity.’”

“The biggest obstacle I've had to overcome in training for the half is just facing down the idea that I won't be an equal on the marathon course, or that I will inadvertently take some of the fun out of the marathon for those who are so concerned with helping me that they can't enjoy it as much for themselves,” she explained.  “This is the biggest reason that I've not participated in things in the past, my fear of unnecessarily burdening someone.  It's hard to say what specific steps I've taken to overcome these challenges.  I can only say that I'm doing so, and that it wouldn't be possible without the support of my friends, the Backups.”

“There is no better support group,” said Donna, another one of the Backups running in the race this April. “All I can say to people is if you want to know what a real caring heart is, you need to meet the Backups. I couldn't have gotten through my months of training without them. Everyone has their own inspirational touch. I never felt alone in my journey. I always felt them running by my side or pushing me from behind or pulling me when I started to slow down. They are always there with their kind words, quotes, poems, tips and even hugs. When I participate in a marathon, I not only run for myself, but I run for the Backups who aren't able to participate. We are in this together.” Donna’s story is inspirational, as well. Last year’s Country Music Marathon was the first time she had run in such a race … and that was only the beginning. To date she has run in three marathons, and will take part in her fourth with this year’s race in Nashville. For Donna, the journey has been a learning process.

“At the time [before the first race], I was in no shape to participate in a marathon,” she said. “In preparing for the marathon, I knew I had to start eating healthier and start walking … It took a lot of discipline at first, but with a goal in mind, my journey began. I always thought that if I didn't lose the weight, I could quit. But I realize that if I quit at anything I try to do, I would never accomplish anything.” Accomplish she did – not only did Donna loose 60 pounds and successfully complete the marathon, but she has found a new love in running and in participating in races.

“After having [run in one race], I definitely decided I will participate in marathons as long as I can keep putting one foot in front of the other,” she said. “It is a great motivator to stay fit and healthy. Each marathon is different, a new experience. And when you cross that finish line, you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. Not only has it improved my life but I can help improve the life of others by running for different causes. I had always wanted to be able to help others in some way, but didn't really know how. This is a way I can help.”

2008 marathon team“I heard her say ‘do it afraid,’” said Holly, who will also be participating in the race this April. ”When I signed up and started training, I was a little fearful of the challenges.” Holly credits the support of the Backups in helping to conquer that fear. For Holly, this journey has been one of overcoming obstacles and believing in herself. After acting as a cheerleader at last year’s race, she wanted to take part again this year – but this time as a participant in the half-marathon. Diagnosed with both Hypertension Cardio Miopathy and Arrhythmia, she had to get permission from her cardiologist to walk in the race.

“My cardiologist said the most important things for me to remember were to keep my heart rate under control and to keep hydrated ... and ‘not to act like superwoman,’” she added. “I didn’t tell him my nickname that Melinda gave me was ‘Spunky!’” Holly credits Melinda’s work with Malaria No More as what inspired her to take part, as well as the other Backups who participated in last year’s race.

“When Idol Gives Back was broadcasted, I saw how these children who were dying from a preventable disease tugged at Melinda's heartstrings,” she explained.  “She committed herself to do her part to save lives and to propagate this organization. I realized that I can save a life too! Melinda has influenced so many people to get on board!” Melinda has indeed influenced so many people in so many ways, and she continues to be an inspiration to her Backups. 

“I find Melinda to be a uniquely selfless person,” said Sara. “The quality of her character inspires me to contribute to the causes she cares about. Through Melinda’s work with Malaria No More and her dedication to education about malaria, she helped me and many others realize that we can actually have a significant positive impact on the lives of children affected by this devastating disease. With as little as ten dollars, we truly can make a difference. Melinda is the motivation behind our marathon team, and we are honored to join her in this effort.”

“To say she's been an inspiration would be an understatement,” said Jena.  “It seems much more fitting to say that she's a blessing to those who've met her.”

“I didn't have faith and believe in myself that it was possible to accomplish the unthinkable,” adds Donna. “I always think about her words 'dream big.’ And now I do.”

To help support the Backups in their big dreams and their quest to make them a reality, please consider sponsoring our team in this year’s Country Music Marathon.

ABOUT MALARIA NO MOREmalaria no more logo

Malaria No More is a non-profit organization committed to ending malaria deaths in Africa. Malaria No More is a cause very close to Melinda Doolittle's heart and we are pleased to do this in her honor.

Malaria No More’s mission is simple: to end deaths due to malaria. The world has known how to beat this disease for more than a century, yet it remains the number one killer of children under five in Africa, claiming more than 1 million lives a year. Malaria No More works to raise the profile of the disease among the public, policymakers, and businesses, while engages the private sector to provide life-saving bed nets and other critical interventions to families in Africa. Learn more at


Join us by running or walking and/or donating and getting others to participate as well!

"DREAM BIG" Eph. 3:20 - Melinda Doolittle

Do it again this year

Many of the previous years runners have pledged to repeat the experience next year. Why don’t you join them and run or walk the full 26.2-mile marathon or the 13.1-mile half-marathon next year on April 25th 2015.

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Country Music Marathon


Participate by supporting the Melinda’s Backups™ Team of runners and walkers as we raise funds for Malaria No More!

In order to allocate the funds directly to this event, you may choose to donate two different ways:

PAY PAL: You may send your donation online via PayPal to

CHECK: Or send a check made payable to "Malaria No More" to:

MNM Marathon
P.O. Box 72053
Louisville, KY 40272

All donations to Malaria No More are tax deductible.

Runners and Walkers: download the Marathon Sponsorship Form from here.

Please email us if you have any questions or need assistance.

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