To the Internet Stranger Who's Become a Lifelong Cheerleader to My Son
I know what you’re thinking. How could I sign my child up with a stranger on the Internet? Well, what I really did was go to a website called IR4. They match people with special needs with a running buddy. It’s designed to offer encouragement to and from both sides.
The program started between two people, Tim and Michael. Tim, a runner, was talking to his friend, Michael, who has Down syndrome. As Tim was ending a conversation with Michael by telling him he was going out for a run, Michael told him, “You can run for me anytime!” And the rest, as they say, is history. IR4 was formed as a nonprofit organization that’s donated to various programs like Special Olympics. It started out small and now has more than 30,000 participants.
Back to Alex. Alex has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a form of muscular dystrophy. He uses a wheelchair and has never walked or run in his life. Brenda trains, walks and runs for him. She also takes pictures of herself along the way from events she participates in. She carries Alex’s picture with her to help motivate her to complete the event. She’s worn shirts and various forms of body paint displaying “I Run 4 Alex!”
All this from a stranger who lives almost 5,000 miles away. And we know how far away she is because she’s created our own event. She lives in California and we live in New York. Last year on Alex’s birthday, she sent us a map of the U.S. and stickers. She tracked how long it would take her to walk and/or run to see Alex. She sent along a tour book to highlight the many places she would visit along the way with a description of the destination point and a little bit of history. She’s involved her family, friends and co-workers to donate their miles to the cause. So far, they are almost halfway to us!
Brenda has adopted our family as her own. She has the biggest heart I know. Alex gets funny cards, gifts and even the medals and shirts from races she’s been involved in. She sends us awesome homemade caramels at Christmas time and always remembers to make contact with Alex when she can. She and I have messaged back and forth some nights just sharing our day. She encourages me to be the best mom I can for Alex. She’s shown unconditional love for my boy. She was a stranger who has become our forever friend and for that, we are incredibly grateful.
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