Imagine not being able to walk or run. Imagine being wheelchair bound and feeling different than everyone else.
The world can often make those with disabilities feel alone, but there’s one local group whose mission is to change that, and they’re doing it one race at a time.
For athletes like Matthew, it’s freedom. Matthew has autism, angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, and epilepsy.
"Doors have been opened that we would have never been able, that we would have never thought we could have gotten through. He's accomplished so many more things, and in the process, he's pulled me along,” his mom Janice Wright said.
They actually pull each other along. Janice physically pulls Matthew along the course.
"When we’re going down the chute and hearing people cheer him on my heart just burst, because you know they’re cheering for him.” Janice said.
Athletes Serving Athletes volunteer Katie Schaeffer said, “You can watch their face. They stay super happy the entire day.”
Katie Schaeffer is a team captain and runs with Karen. The two have known each other for a few years now, so Katie knows the daily challenges Karen faces. That makes this program even more special.
“The world isn’t really meant for people with disabilities. It’s not really universally designed at all, so this is a great way to equalize everything and kind of make it so that everyone is on the same playing field and accomplishing the same thing,” Schaeffer said.
And that’s one of the goals of the program… to make the athletes feel loved, included, and accepted.
Founding board member and executive director, David Slomkowski said, “The majority of our athletes are very limited mobility, some of them have no mobility, and cognitively, they’re all over the spectrum"
Slomkowski says the idea for Athletes Serving Athletes came from Team Hoyt, a Boston father who pushed and carried his son with cerebral palsy over countless finish lines.
Because of Team Hoyt and local organizers, Athletes Serving Athletes has grown to about 150 athletes with disabilities competing in 85 scheduled events throughout the year.
To learn more about ASA click here.