After reading an article on Dick and Rick Hoyt, Foundation Executive Director Sean J Glassberg was moved to make a difference. For those of you who don’t know, Dick Hoyt is the father of three boys; Rick, his youngest son, has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. In 1977, Dick, who had never run more than a mile other than during his Air National Guard Boot Camp training stint, honored Rick’s request to run a 5K with him. This 5K run was a hometown fundraiser to raise monies for a child with disabilities to attend college, and Dick pushed Rick in a wheelchair throughout the run. There was only supposed to be one 5K run, but Dick could not stop; upon returning home from the first race, Rick immediately typed into his communication device, “Dad, when I am running, I don’t even feel like I am handicapped.” Since then, Dick and Rick have become celebrities, running marathons and ultra marathons, triathlons and the Ironman triathlons.
This story and an article in Sports Illustrated (http://sportsillustrated.asia/vault/article/magazine/MAG1184410/1/index.htm) moved Sean to participate in a similar activity for a child in the Charleston area. With the help of friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances, Sean raised enough money at the end of 2011 to purchase the first push chair (heretofore known as a running chair) for Katherine Holladay, a sweet nine-year old girl with diagnoses of seizure disorder, blindness, and marked developmental delay. Sean became Katherine’s first “Pacer,” and they ran together in local 5Ks and 10Ks, including the 2012 Cooper River Bridge Run. Sean’s vision was to expand this opportunity to other children who cannot walk, talk, or feed themselves and require assistance to do the simplest of activities.
Most of these kids may not have a mom or dad that can spend the money or time to purchase a running chair and train, register and run in local 5 and 10K races. For the parents and children running with Pacers, we will provide them an opportunity to experience what Rick did the first time he “ran” a race with his dad – not to feel disabled.
Since the end of 2011 and the purchase of that first running chair, the organization has grown, with a kick start provided by Mel O’Keefe, a local personal trainer living in the Lowcountry. With experience as a coach for Team-in-Training, Mel believed that Racers for Pacers could benefit from the same method of fundraising while also increasing the amount of people actively exercising, his passion. In September 2012, Coach Mel recruited people interested in fundraising for Racers for Pacers while also training for the Charleston Half and Full Marathons held in January 2013. Upon completion of the marathons, over 15 runners, coached by Mel to run either the half or full, raised over $10,000, contributing to money already raised to purchase three more running chairs. These three chairs are now put to good use by three great kids in the Lowcountry – Dori, Noah and Brooke – each of whom have their own Pacers who run with them.
The challenge is to raise more money to purchase running chairs for kids like Katherine, Dori, Noah and Brooke. With help from corporate and individual donors and the runners who train with Coach Mel, more individuals with disabilities will be able to say, as Rick Hoyt so aptly phrased it, “When I am running, I don’t even feel like I am handicapped.”
Listen to Mike Switzer of South Carolina ETV Radio interview Racers for Pacers founder Sean Glassberg: http://www.scetv.org/index.php/sc_business_review/show/charleston_man_pushes_others_to_success/