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#GirlsAre Strong

By Carol Thomas on 05/16/2018 | General

This story is shared in partnership with #GirlsAre, a campaign powered by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to empower girls to celebrate their athleticism.

 

Meet Sadie.

Our daughter, Sadie, is a 10 ½ -year-old fourth grader in Birmingham, AL. She loves her family, her dog, anything Disney, the beach, shopping, bookstores, playing adaptive sports, school, laughing with friends and almost anything else that you can imagine a 10-year-old likes to do. 

Because of a stroke she suffered when she was very young, Sadie has right-hemiplegia (cerebral palsy), epilepsy, right-field vision impairment and cognitive/developmental delay. Sadie did not walk or talk until she was 3 ½ years old. 

Because of Sadie’s unique needs, her Dad and I have not always been comfortable with her participating in extra-curricular activities. That has changed since Sadie began participating in Girls on the Run (GOTR).

Adapting to Run

When I learned about GOTR, I immediately bounced questions to Coach Kelly Bonner, one of the Lakeshore Foundation employees working with GOTR at Sadie’s school. I wanted to know whether Sadie would be able to safely participate and how the curriculum would be modified to meet her needs. 

We worked closely together to make sure all of Sadie’s needs were met, even adjusting Sadie’s routine in the weeks leading up to the first day of the GOTR season so she could make an easier transition. I remember Sadie saying how excited she was to “build her muscles.”

 

Definitely worth it

Sadie’s smile after the first session was enough to show that she loved the program. The two laps that she walked the first practice wore her out, but she talked about it for days until the next session. 

Each week, she was able to increase her walking distance. And as parents, we saw her becoming more self-aware. Sadie would quickly alert the coaches when her feet hurt or when she needed to rest. This was a huge win on her path to independence!  

On race day, she alternated jogging, walking, and using her wheelchair--a technique she practiced throughout the season. She jogged and walked the last stretch across the finish line like a champ. She was one of the last runners in, but that thought never even entered her mind. She wanted to finish, and she did!

 

More than exercise

Another GOTR goal that we wanted for Sadie was for her to be accepting of others different from her. We wanted her to learn from a team environment, cheer the other girls on, be respectful, and build friendships. This is something that the program already does so well, and why it’s so great that more young girls with physical challenges will be able to reap these benefits. 

 

 

Let’s keep moving!

2017 was a medically challenging year for Sadie. After undergoing two surgeries to reduce her seizures, we decided to supplement her rehabilitation therapy with additional exercise programs.

GOTR has helped encourage Sadie to stay active. In addition to GOTR, Sadie participates in an adaptive soccer program called TOPSoccer and enjoys exercise at the Lakeshore Foundation here in Birmingham. 

 

#GirlsAre

What did Sadie take away from her GOTR experience? She will tell you, “Girls are strong.” 

Sadie’s enthusiasm to “build her muscles” has sparked this Momma to be more active. We are examples of how physical activity and programs like GOTR can impact a young girl’s life, and even inspire those around her. With Sadie’s example, I hope to see more girls like her on the fields, in pools, and on courts across the country.

Carol Thomas

Author

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