When Brayden was born, doctors told his parents he may never walk because of his cerebral palsy, but this weekend his family will be watching as he runs his first 5K race with five of his newest friends.
Toeing the starting line with Brayden are Hunter, Jevan, Joshua, Landon and Zach. These six brave young men are members of the inaugural Be Well Running Program, a health and wellness club for patients at Cincinnati Children’s. Some also have CP, while some face other disabilities. They joined our group with different levels of physical ability and fitness from cities as close as Norwood, Ohio to as far away as Pikeville, Kentucky.
Watching their progress since our start in June has been remarkable. Runners were encouraged to join us two to three times a week for running practice at parks in the greater Cincinnati area. At our very first practice, most of the young men struggled to run for five minutes at a time. Today, all members of the group have run at least a 5K (a distance of 3.1 miles) in practice, and many have run more than that.
These young athletes trained with Cincinnati Children’s physical therapists and a baker’s dozen of volunteer coaches from the community (plus a few lab retrievers!). One step at a time, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a new running community was born. Friendships have been forged over the miles and miles of pavement and our patients have found something unstoppable within themselves they didn’t know existed.
Each runner is motivated by different things. Some practice running because they want to get better at it. Some practice because their health depends on it. Together, the group has worked hard to encourage, challenge and push each other to accomplish what, at first, seemed impossible. This Saturday, Sept. 26, they will challenge perceptions of children with disability at the PurpleStride 5K Run and Family-Friendly Walk.
The notion of running for wellness at Cincinnati Children’s started last year when Austin, a 17-year-old high school student with CP, identified a frustration with his ability to keep up with peers during physical education testing. Three months and a lot of practice miles later, Austin completed his own 5K journey. His example inspires others to do the same.
The Be Well Running Program is a collaboration between the OT/PT/TR Department and the CP Program. Over the course of our pilot year the club has benefited from donations to the CP Clinic, including generous help from the medical center’s Convalescent Hospital Association of Volunteers. These gifts have helped to offset the cost of Fitbits for each runner and race entry fees for the PurpleStride 5K.
Brooks Sports, Inc. and Bob Roncker’s Running Spot have helped to suit the young men up in running gear and running shoes. The partnerships that have developed have been mutually wonderful and will help us expand the program next year. Cincinnati is a place for EVERYONE to run, and we look forward to working with the community to ensure that remains the case.
We wish our Brayden, Hunter, Jevan, Joshua, Landon and Zach, their families, friends and the volunteer staff luck on Saturday. Please cheer for them with us. You’ll find them running with grace along the route at Sawyer Point. And you’ll find a proud set of coaches at the finish line.
To learn more about the Be Well Running Program, find The Cerebral Palsy Program at Cincinnati Children’s on Facebook or call 513-803-4627.
Editor’s Note: Kathryn C. Lucas, PT, and Sean Jameson, clinic coordinator, contributed to this story. The authors would like to thank all of the volunteer coaches. Without their commitment, this program would not be possible.