Thanks to the Katie Lynch Foundation, this past Saturday morning at the Wayland High School Field House, children and adult athletes with physical disabilities competed in the Purple Shoes Challenge. Athletes with varying disabilities competed against themselves trying to reach a personal record during the 60-minute interval.
This is a rare opportunity for these athletes to participate in a real competition that celebrates their strengths and their hard work throughout the year. I was moved to tears as several young athletes made their way around the indoor track with the help from a trainer or volunteer. You could see the pride and determination as they walked, ran and wheeled around the track. Family and friends cheered and offered encouragement as each lap was completed.
The support for the Katie Lynch Foundation continued on Sunday morning as 650-plus runners gathered at the high school on a 35-degree morning to take part in one of three races: a 5K, a half marathon, and a kids' fun run.
The caliber of runners was impressive: Justin Renz of Milton won the 5K with a time of 17:02, and Joe Siravo of Weymouth won the half marathon with a time of 1:17:02.
The best female finishers were equally impressive: Michelle Gordon of Amherst finished the 5K in 21:58, and Mattea Kramer completed the half marathon in 1:29:00.
The top Wayland finishers were Jeff and Kristen Graham in the 5K and Geoff Getz and Kathrin Midgley in the half marathon.
At the other end of the pack, I set out to complete my first half marathon. What I encountered along the familiar Wayland route was a supportive and friendly community celebrating Katie's memory and her commitment to reaching her full potential.
As the morning concluded and all the runners had crossed the finish line, I took a moment to congratulate Joan Lynch on the success of the weekend's events. She took the time to meet my children and thank us for participating. The Lynch family has inspired me with their courage, generosity and positivity.
In addition to the race, the Foundation supports school districts, including Wayland, that implement the Understanding Our Differences curriculum. This is the curriculum, called "Just Like Me," that is used in both Wayland elementary schools. I have been involved with this program at the Claypit Hill School over the last few years and have seen the benefits of this unique, hands-on approach to helping children understand disabilities and promoting an atmosphere of acceptance and inclusion.
Katie Lynch participated in Just Like Me in Wayland as a student and later as a speaker. Although I did not know Katie, I know she was an inspiration to many. Despite her healthcare struggles, she was determined to be her best and spread her message that individually and as a community we need to acknowledge the worth of every person. Katie passed away in 2002, but her strength and courage have lived on through the Katie Lynch Foundation, her family and her community here in Wayland.
To find out more about The Katie Lynch Foundation or to make a donation, follow the link: http://www.katiesraces.com/.
Full race results are here: http://racewire.com/live_results.php?id=1643