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Sarah Hart is known for being an amazing, organized, salt-of-the-earth nice and supportive friend, mother, wife, daughter, nurse, volunteer and more. Today, we delve in deep to see how she manages it all and to find out more about a charity that she successfully sought out to bring to Nashville, Achilles International.

Where did you first learn about Achilles International?

In 2004. While living in Austin, TX, I volunteered at the start line of the Austin Marathon. It was an unusually cold morning, and 30 minutes after all the runners left, I noticed a gentleman standing alone on the sidewalk. I walked over to offer assistance, and quickly realized that he was blind. He had come to run the marathon, but his guide had not shown up. The memory of that man has stayed with me over the years. I regret not running with him.

In December 2011, I decided I wanted to participate in the 2012 New York City Marathon as a guide. I researched “guide running” organizations, and all of my efforts led me to Achilles International.

Did you have an “ah-ha” moment when you knew that you needed to bring Achilles International to Nashville?

From the very beginning, the Achilles Nashville “path” unfolded before me like I was meant to follow it. Conversations were easy and people were eager to help. Still, I debated internally, and with my family, whether I had the time and energy necessary to devote to such an organization, ensuring its success.

I realize this may sound ridiculous, but my true “ah-ha!” moment happened while watching a scene in the movie Dolphin Tale with our young children. A young girl in a wheelchair, missing her leg, traveled a long distance to see Winter, a dolphin with a missing tail. Winter looked at the girl, turned around, and held up her tail to the girl’s outstretched hand. Through tears, I thought, “Thank you, God. I hear you. I’ve got it. I’m in.”

Does having a medical background as a nurse help you with your volunteer work here? Does someone have to have a medical background to volunteer?

Achilles volunteers come from all walks of life, and each one brings a unique gift to the group. Volunteers can do anything from walking/running/biking with an athlete, to setting up refreshments, to dog-sitting a guide dog while the owner goes for a run. People just come because they want to be a part of the Achilles team! And you absolutely do not have to have a medical background to volunteer with Achilles, nor do you need experience working with people with disabilities. There are no prerequisites, fees, or expectations on attendance.

Working part time as a nurse in addition your volunteer work with Achilles International, and being a mom of two, wife, friend, daughter, etc, begs us to ask: How do you manage all of this?

Well, first and foremost, everyone should be lucky enough to have Melanie Yappen at their side. Melanie has been with Achilles Nashville from day one, and is responsible for the momentum that propelled our Nashville chapter into a successful first year. She is an organized, creative workhorse, with a huge, warm heart.

Personally, I try very hard to stay “present” in my life. When I am with my family, I try to be with my family. When I am nursing, I focus only on our patients and their families. With Achilles, I try to compartmentalize the work, as if I were performing a true job away from home.

I also admit to being a compulsive list-maker. Whenever I start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, I stop and make a list of all that I need to get done. (Silly, but sometimes I even include a few things that I have already done, just so I can feel the satisfaction of crossing something off!)

And then there are always days when I feel like someone cranked up my treadmill, and I just have to “hold on tight” until it passes….

Being a Nashville native who has lived in Austin, our “sister city,” how is the food scene different?

Austin undoubtedly had better chips, salsa and margaritas! I used to say Austin had better restaurants but that is debatable now, as Nashville has really stepped up in recent years.

What excites you about how Nashville has changed since your school days here?

Nashville has become a young, vibrant city that somehow maintains a personal, small-town feel. I applaud the intentional growth without urban sprawl, and green space promoting health and wellness. I am extremely proud to live here.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received over the years?

“Listen. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

Is there an upcoming Nashville event that you are looking forward to?

The Country Music Marathon on April 27th, 2013! This will be the first official year that Achilles Nashville participates, and we have eight athletes training for the Half Marathon, and one athlete training for the Full Marathon. Look for their bright yellow shirts and cheer, “Go Achilles!” I cannot wait to see them cross the finish line!

Do you have a favorite place to eat dinner in Nashville?

My couch, in my PJs, with a slice of pizza and a glass of red wine! Second choice is Caffé Nonna, which is close to home, cozy and warm, with delicious food.

What books are you currently reading?

Currently, on my bedside table are 1,2,3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children Age 2-12 by Thomas Phelan, Rising Son: A Father and Son’s Bike Adventure Across Japan by Charles Scott, and several issues of Runner’s World magazine.

A poem that I read last night, as quoted by the author in Rising Son, really resonated with me:

“The Call” by Nadya Catalfano

Something soft and gentle

Glides through your hands

And it seems to grab your hand and lead you

On to something greater

If only you had the sense to follow it

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be?

Hands down, Shirley Peek’s golden retriever. What an amazing life! If you know Shirley (a wonderful pre-school teacher who taught both of our children), you certainly understand.

Name three things you can’t live without (besides God, family and friends!)

My morning coffee (I am worthless & mute before the first sip), my “clipboard” with my “list,” and of course, my running!

Thank you, Sarah! And thank you, Ashley Hylbert, for these beautiful photographs.

For more information about Achilles International, visit this website:

And, to see more of Ashley’s photography, visit her website:

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