Today we wanted to share a little bit about a group that we’ve recently joined.
I (Jen) have a very long history of work with individuals with special needs. In high school, I was a camp counselor at a summer camp for special needs kids and before I left to stay at home with our kids I was a Teaching Assistant for an Applied Behavior Analysis program working with Autistic children. Also, as we’ve mentioned previously, our son Parker was recently diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder. Even though I am no longer working I still like to give back as much as possible to organizations that work with special needs children in whatever way possible (currently it’s through Autism Speaks and their Team Up! program). One night I came across a group that matches runners with a special needs buddy:
Who I Run 4 was started in 2013 by Tim Boyle. It all began when Michael (a 50-something man with Down Syndrome) made the comment to Tim “You can run for me anytime” on a post that Tim had shared stating “I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them.”
What started as a group of 10 runners with 10 buddies building relationships while sharing their workouts has now grown to a group of over 22,000 athletes with over 2,500 more waiting to be matched with their buddy. After browsing the website, I signed Parker up to be matched with a buddy. Within hours I had received an e-mail stating that he had been paired. I spent a while reading some of the posts in the group and was blown away by the amazing relationships that have been formed between runners and their buddies and decided that this was something I wanted to be a part of on a bigger level. So, I signed myself up as an athlete.
While I waited (at the time I was still well above 3,000 on the waiting list) I kept seeing posts about great things going on in one of the spin off groups that was geared for siblings of special needs children. Often times these kids could benefit from some extra attention because so often a lot of the focus is on caring for their brother or sister. I decided that I would transfer my name from the wait list to the list for the siblings group. Within two days I had been matched with a seven year old girl from Illinois. We talk (through her mom) a few times a week, and she is the extra motivation behind my runs. Travis has also decided to join in and was recently matched with an eight year old boy from Kentucky.
These groups not only promote wonderful relationships between buddies and their runners, but they give back as well. To date, IR4 has donated over $15,000 to groups like the International Down Syndrome Coalition, CureAHC, Make-A-Wish and Special Olympics. These donations are made possible through a series of virtual races that group members are invited to participate in throughout the year.
If you’re looking for a way to give back and might be interested in being paired with a buddy from one of these groups, definitely check out IR4! You won’t regret it!