Here is story from this week’s Savannah Morning Newspaper about Dan Pavlin ’00.
Dan Pavlin made a promise to Dustin Meeks several years ago that one day they would run the Savannah Bridge Run together. Last year, they crossed the Talmadge Bridge together for the first time — actually, they crossed it three times —and Saturday they’ll do it again.
Pavlin, a vice president with Bernard Williams & Company, is a healthy, robust 38-year-old father of four, a veteran runner who could probably do the Bridge Run without breaking a sweat.
No so for Meeks, 36, who was born with a rare genetic disorder which affects his balance, vision, hearing and cognitive skills, according to his father, Dennis Meeks.
“We call him the walking, talking miracle,” Meeks said of his son. “He’s lived much longer than we thought.”
There was no way physically for Meeks to complete the race with his friend, but Pavlin found a solution.
Pavlin heard about the Team Hoyt Running Chairs and, after investigating, determined this was just what his friend needed. Team Hoyt began developing running chairs for disabled individuals in the 1990s.
The majority of the approximately $1,500 cost of the chair was borne by Bernard Williams & Company, one of Savannah’s oldest insurance agencies and a strong supporter of community events and causes.
Other contributors, Pavlin said, include Thomas and Hutton, The Savannah Harbor Foundation, Endurance Racing Team (ERS) and a host of individuals.
Monies also have been raised through the sale of $10 T-shirts, orange in color.
This long-standing friendship was forged when Pavlin’s family moved to Savannah from New Jersey during his senior year of high school because of his father’s job transfer with Union Camp.
“(Meeks) befriended me in 1999,” Pavlin said. “I was a senior at Savannah Christian having just moved here. I didn’t know anyone, and he reached out to me. He didn’t attend school at Savannah Christian, but we both attended Savannah Christian Church, which is now Compassion Christian.
“He’s my best friend, my best bud,” Pavlin said. “I’ve run the Bridge Run every year since 1999, and I told him one day we would run it together.
“We finally did it last year, and it has been my favorite bridge experience.”
Meeks attended Groves High School, which had a program for special needs students, Dennis Meeks said, but that did not deter Dustin from keeping track of his new best friend.
“He looked for Dan to get home from school every day,” Meeks said. “When Dan got home, Dustin would get so excited.
“Dan has been a great friend for years,” Dennis Meeks said. “Dustin was in Dan’s wedding, and they have done so many things together.”
The basis of the friendship is simple: it is based on strong Christian beliefs and man’s love for his fellow man.
“Everyone loves Dustin,” Pavlin said. “He knows so many people, and he remembers everyone. When you’re with Dustin, everyone is coming up and saying hello. It’s really exciting to see, and to be with him.”
While Meeks’ overall condition has deteriorated the last few years — he can’t stand on his own, for example — those who knowshim agree he is what might be classified as a social animal.
“Socially, Dustin’s off the chart,” his father said. “He’s very good socially, very good at remembering names. He has some physical challenges now.”
At one time, Dustin worked four hours a day at the Chick-fil-A at Oglethorpe Mall, and Dennis said he and his wife, Shaaron had no qualms about letting him take the bus to work from their Georgetown-area home.
“He would catch the bus and make a couple of transfers,” Meeks said. “He would get to the mall and walk in to work. He would use a cane to help his balance. After four hours, he would repeat the trip home.
“He’s not able to do that now. We’ll go out to eat and he can walk in to the restaurant holding on to us.”
About the journey
For Pavlin, his co-worker Pamela Howe of Richmond Hill and the other members of the team that run with Dustin, it’s not about winning or where they finish.
“Pam paces us,” Pavlin said. “She could run a lot faster, but this isn’t about winning. It’s much, much more.
“When you’re pushing that chariot up a hill, when it is about someone else, it’s more meaningful,” Pavlin said. “When it’s you running, when it’s over, it’s over. With Dustin, when you cross the finish line, it’s not over. It just keeps going.
“You’re not breaking any records, but when you cross the finish line, it is so much better doing it with a friend.”
As they did last year, they will do the Double Pump — three times over the bridge — once in the 5,000-meter run and twice for the 10K.
“We’ve got a good team,” Pavlin said. “I couldn’t do it by myself.
“When you’re doing something like this with a good friend like Dustin, it’s like being at the center of the universe.”
SAVANNAH BRIDGE RUN
The 25th anniversary Enmarket Savannah Bridge Run is Saturday, beginning with a 1/4-mile Kids Run at 7:50 a.m., followed by a 5K and Double Pump (5K then 10K) at 8 and a 10K at 9.
Medals will be awarded for all races, followed by live music, free beer and Brunswick stew as part of the Michelob Ultra Post-Race Party in Franklin Square, presented by Host South.
The costume contest pays out for the top three ($400, $200, $100) in both individual and group divisions. A portion of race proceeds benefit the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph’s/Candler.
The expo and packet pickup 10 a.m.-7 p.m. today at the Savannah Civic Center. For more details, go to www.SavannahBridgeRun.com.”