How far would you run for your family?
For 16-year-old Katie Christian, who lives in Ferndale with her two moms, Karen and Stephanie, that answer was 13.1 miles — or a half-marathon that she completed on March 28.
But Christian wasn’t running solely for her own family. She was running to raise money for COLAGE, an organization dedicated to supporting people who have one or more LGBTQ+ parents by connecting them with other families like theirs.
And her running paid off. Literally. Not only did she break the two-hour mark, crossing the finish line in 1 hour and 54 minutes, but she also raised $1,250 for COLAGE.
“We were so proud of her,” says her mom Karen. “First of all, to take on the challenge of running the half-marathon, but to take that challenge and do it for a COLAGE was so great.”
“I knew that Katie was raising money, but I am blown away by how much she raised!” says COLAGE Executive Director Jordan Budd. “COLAGE is a small non-profit that punches far above its weight, so donations of this size are a huge deal for us.”
Christian is an active member of COLAGE. Since 2020 she has been part of the Youth Action Board, which Budd describes as “an advisory body that helps guide COLAGE’s programming and decision-making.”
“Katie is a force of nature and we’re so pleased to have her,” Budd says.
What initially drew Christian to COLAGE was that she found herself growing less confident talking about her family structure as she got older. Up until kindergarten, says Christian’s mom, Karen, they saw other families with LGBTQ+ parents regularly through a group at Affirmations. Once she entered school, however, the majority of her classmates’ families didn’t look like hers at all.
Like many kids who have LGBTQ+ parents, Christian began to get questions from other kids. Some of those questions made her uncomfortable, like how her mom got pregnant, whether seeing a family with a dad made her feel jealous or what it means to have a donor.
“It’s very similar to questions people of color are asked where those asking don’t necessarily mean to be rude but don’t realize that what they’ve said isn’t really appropriate,” Christian says.
Thankfully, Christian felt like her parents had helped prepare her for this.
“My parents have always been very, very open about everything, which I really admire,” she says. “I really appreciate that.”
Now Christian educates others through her work with COLAGE and participates in competitive speech. Her topic? Having two moms.
“That speech really changed a lot in my life,” she says. “It helped me become a lot more comfortable that I have two moms and become much more compassionate for people with two moms.”
The speech is another point of pride for Christian’s family.
“It’s really exciting to see our kids come into their own and feel comfortable with it,” Karen Christian says.
Of course, it helps when that kid has a strong support system like Christian. That support system formed a literal cheering squad of moms, grandparents and uncles while she ran her marathon.
“Her grandma and uncle took turns riding their bikes behind her,” Karen Christian says. “The rest of us put on funny hats and cheered her on and gave her water as she passed by us.”
Looking to the future, Christian says she hopes to revive the Michigan chapter of COLAGE, which was previously in Saugatuck.
“I feel like there aren’t enough opportunities for families to meet each other and interact,” she says. “COLAGE is just such a powerful organization. I love all of the work that they do and it’s such a great way to connect families.”
Budd is on board, too.
“Our chapter system was shut down a few years ago under a different executive director,” he says. “It just didn’t fit with the shift in our organizational model. We’re currently working on something similar for the future, and Katie will certainly be a part of that project.”
For more information about COLAGE and upcoming events visit colage.org.