Ashley Horner ran an incredible 230-mile ultra-marathon to support the Maison Fortunè Orphanage Foundation. This is her story.

Mary Kwasniewski is the Executive Director of the Maison Fortunè Orphanage Foundation. Earlier this year, a fitness professional named Ashley Horner ran an incredible 230 miles along the Western border of Haiti starting in Port-au-Prince and ending in Hince, where children from the orphanage would join her for the final mile of her journey. At the outset, Ashley and Maison Fortunè Orphanage aimed to raise $28,000, which is the annual budget for their elementary school. Ashley ended up raising $64,598 for the Maison Fortunè Orphanage Foundation. In this guest blog, Mary discusses how the campaign came to be and how her nonprofit worked with Ashley and her staff to make this fundraiser such a huge success.

“With each step I take, I already know I will never be alone. Tomorrow it begins; a journey that will be stamped on my heart forever” — Ashley Horner

#IfMountainsCouldTalk #AshleyRunsHaiti #MaisonFortune

In December 2016, Ashley Horner visited Haiti for the first time and spent time at the Maison Fortunè Orphanage, a place she now refers to as home. This orphanage is home to close to 200 children, providing food, shelter, and education for boys and girls who would otherwise be left in desolate situations. Upon her return back to the states, in the midst of the gift giving and holiday season, she knew her story in Haiti was just beginning.

Over the next few weeks, she struggled with what she could offer, as she knew she had more to give. Reflecting on the beauty she found in Haiti it was clear from the start that the people who make up these communities didn’t need to be turned into another America — she wanted to showcase the beauty of Haiti and its people … but she wasn’t a journalist, and she didn’t write for a travel magazine. It was still unclear but she knew she could do something.

During her time at Maison Fortunè, Ashley saw the power of education. Change for the country all starts with education, deeply rooted from the very beginning and built from the ground up just like she had done with her fitness business. Suddenly the gap between fitness and Haiti wasn’t as wide and she realized how she could use her fitness to help: She would RUN. As a fitness icon with a track record for doing crazy feats to raise money for honorable causes, she committed to doing whatever it took to raise funds to ensure education would be available for the students attending the primary school at Maison Fortunè. With a primary school education, they could move on to high school and eventually attend Haitian university and become the next Haitian business owners, doctors, teachers and builders. She would run for the shared vision of better education and opportunity for more than 200 boys and girls who have found their home at Maison Fortunè. A fundraising goal of $28,000 was set, which would be enough to cover all primary school expenses for one full year.

Planning began immediately and we choose the Mightycause platform in part because we had used it in the past and the process was so easy and successful. Creating the page for Ashley’s run was just a matter of a few keystrokes and together we set off to meet our goal!

Our Mightycause page was hovering around $15K and we hoped once we started we would gain momentum … Ashley took off running just outside Port au Prince on the evening of April 3, just hours after landing in the country. In our planning, we knew we would need to avoid the heat of the day. Ashley’s photographer and Marketing Director, Eva Fuze, took over her social media channels, providing real-time updates via Instagram, Instagram’s story feature, Facebook and communicating with race coordinators back home to push out updates throughout her run.

Ashley signals that she’s okay on Day 1 of the ultra-marathon.

Day 1: We’ve passed through a few small towns now. The congestion of the downtown areas makes for chaos and confusion, especially with our convoy of 2 motos, 2 vehicles and Ashley on foot of course. But the roads aren’t exactly set up to easily take “detours” here, so we truck right through it. Ashley’s wearing a Buff to try and help with the immense amount of smog and exhaust she’s breathing in as every car passes. She came back to the car and said, “This heat is no joke…” but thankfully the sun is going down and the air is cooling right along with it.

By day two of the run, Ashley’s body was starting to talk back…

Day 2: I’m not sure who in their right mind would ever guess that running across a country would be glamorous. But this just goes to show that even though the body is capable of some ridiculous things, it’s definitely going to show its struggle. We stopped for a foot check because Ashley was saying she felt some blisters forming, but we had no idea how bad they were going to be. She keeps asking, through multiple “I’m fine… I feel good” or polite requests for snacks or water — how the fundraiser is doing. She is putting her body through the wringer, pushing to limits, to be able to set foot in the Maison Fortuné Orphanage and be able to tell the children their school costs are completely paid for a full year. Please if you can spare even just a few dollars — it all adds up.

Then this happened…

The emotions are overflowing. This is incredible. We were just pausing to collect ourselves and plan out the next few hours to save energy during the heat of the day. And all of a sudden we learn via text message “You reached your goal!” I thought it had to be wrong…. Our goal was $28k…. but we are pushing forward. Why stop there with the generosity and compassion pouring out from every person reading this… you are part of this now. We’re all in this together.

Ashley is joined by children from the orphanage for the last mile of her journey

Our weekend was filled with celebration at the orphanage, as Ashley Horner, her team and our children celebrated an amazing accomplishment — running 230 miles through Haiti to raise money for our primary school. The original goal was $28,000, to fund the school for an entire year. When Ashley hit that goal, she doubled down and kept running, challenging people all over the world with a new goal of $56,000.

We are incredibly happy to report that not only did Ashley meet the new goal — SHE CRUSHED IT. As of this writing, the Mightycause fundraising page is over $64,000, from more than 1,100 donors!

Not only did Ashley reach the goal and provide two years of funding for the school, she helped increase awareness about the Maison Fortunè Orphanage and our goal of raising the next generation of leaders for Haiti. We are beyond thrilled, and so very appreciative of everything Ashley and her team have done for the children. Of course, the mission doesn’t end here — we have more needs, but thanks to Ashley’s efforts, we’re able to focus even more resources to our other challenges.

We’ll close with a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported Ashley and the children of Maison Fortunè through dollars, tears, sweat, sharing the story and sending prayers and warm thoughts.

Thank you, or as we say in Haiti — Mesi Anpil.

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