As a sponsor of the Sunflower State Games (SSG), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) takes pride in employees who participate in the largest amateur multi-sport festival in the state. The games provide employees with a chance to be an active member in the community as well as improve their overall physical, mental and emotional health. We invited Arianne Gross, BCBSKS policyholder representative and SSG athlete, to share her experience.

How did you first get involved with the Sunflower State Games?

I first got involved with the Sunflower State Games in the summer of 2013. An article had been published on the company’s intranet site encouraging employees to participate. Although I had recently started running, I did not consider myself an athlete, but was intrigued by the essay contest (a special feature offered by the SSG organizers, which asked Kansans to inspire others to “Get up! Get out! Get Healthy!”). Creative writing has been a lifelong passion of mine, and as a new employee, I was eager to get involved with organizations supported by BCBSKS. It felt like the perfect opportunity to try something new, take a risk and get my name out there.

How many years have you been a participant?

I have been a participant in the Sunflower State Games for three years, 2013 through 2015.

What events have you participated in?

My first event was the 2013 essay contest, in which I won the gold medal. As part of the prize package, I received a free Games entry, which I used to compete in the 5K road race. I again participated in the 5K road race in 2014 and then the 10K road race in 2015.

What has been your favorite event, and why?

My favorite event has definitely been the essay contest. I admit that winning the gold medal does have something to do with my favoritism, but not for the more obvious reasons of title or recognition. This event provided me with the opportunity to test my limitations, first, emotionally, by submitting the essay and then physically, by competing in my first 5K race. Unfortunately, I was unable to compete this year due to schedule conflicts, but hope to be back at it in 2017.

What has the SSG meant to you?

The SSG have meant the world to me because my entire world was transformed after participating.  Up until 2013, I had made a lifestyle of only taking risks where I could be assured I would succeed. Although creative writing was a lifelong passion, I never shared my pieces with anyone for fear of ridicule. With the essay contest being presented in such an unusual way, alongside a multitude of athletic competitions, intrigue suddenly overshadowed my anxiety. By submitting that essay, regardless of the outcome, I embarked on a journey to conquer my crippling fear of inadequacy. My participation in the 5K road race also launched my running career. I have continued to test my limits physically as I extend the lengths of the races I participate in. I actually completed my first half-marathon a few weeks ago. It’s difficult to put into words what that kind of accomplishment does for a person who spent most of her life with zero self-esteem.

Shortly after winning the gold medal, my essay was published for fellow Blue Cross employees to read and resulted in a flood of responsive emails from fellow Blue Cross employees. Many were moved by my story, but one man, Bill, in particular felt a powerful connection between us, even though we had never met. We began exchanging emails outside of work and our correspondence quickly blossomed into courtship. It took only three short months for me and Bill to realize that this was more than just a coincidence, it was divine intervention. We got engaged in October and were married on November 12, 2013.

Gross Wedding
Bill & Arianne Gross

As silly as it sounds, I am living the life I had always dreamed of and the Sunflower State Games had a lot to do with it. I would encourage any person, of any age and skill level, to sign up for an event they are interested in. At the very least, you are seizing the opportunity to prove something to yourself, but you never know what miracles may be waiting around the bend of that first 5K.

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