The athletes of the Kyle Pease Foundation tore up the race course earlier this month at the Virginia Highland 5K which has become one of our favorite races of the season. Taking place right in our own back yard we see hundreds of familiar faces from and around Atlanta. This year we saw nine athletes toe the starting line and enjoyed lots of smiles and good times. It is difficult to pick a highlight out of the hundreds of highlights surrounding this race, but one of the most fulfilling for me and for many of the thousands of cheering fans was watching one of our newest members, Patrick Thom, completed the 3.1 miles under his own power. 

Patrick, age 14, has cerebral palsy and completed the course with his father by his side in an inspiring 56:18:00. This lends credence to the adage, "It's not how fast you go, but how you get there" and Patrick got there to the sounds of ground shaking cheers and deafening applause.  The very epitome of what Walking with KPeasey is all about. Watch the video of the Inspiring Patrick below. 

Our own Sam Harrison finished in 22:59:00 in his first 5K, while Brent and I finished in 22:00. As always, our time is secondary to the smiles we are able to witness on the faces of all the KPF athletes. We are excited to get back out there on July 4th at the Peachtree Road Race on the 4th of July and hope to see everyone out there dressed in red, white and KPeasey Blue!!

As exciting as all of that may sound, it doesn't get any better than this. Every year we award the KPF family grant to an individual who we find to be especially inspiring. Last year was the maiden year of the KPF Grant and the winner was Sean Bates of Texas. This year, we are overjoyed to announce that the winner of the KPF Family grant is (drum roll, please) Jessica Minton of Rome Georgia. We think after you read her essay that you will agree with our selection.

"My name is Jessica Minton.  I am a 31 year old survivor.  I lost my left leg, above the knee, 20 years ago to Osteo Sarcoma, a malignant bone tumor.   I was 11 years old. It was the toughest year of my life.  Why you may ask?  Not only did I have cancer, but my dad died three months into my treatment.  He had an aneurysm.  I had my leg amputated three weeks later.  To me, I had lost something so much more important than a leg.  
About a month later, our house was hit by a tornado.  I picked up the shattered pieces of my life, graduated high school, and went on to attend college at Jacksonville State University.  Three years into my college career, I transferred to The University of Alabama to become the very first recruit for their Women’s Wheelchair Basketball team.  I would also play sitting volleyball for the U.S. National Women’s Sitting Volleyball team, and be named an alternate for the 2004 Paralympics in Greece.   After graduating from Alabama I would go on to coach the prep team for BlazeSports Georgia Basketball.  I found out in January 2006 that I was pregnant with our little boy, Grant.  Because of this, and knowing that I was due in September, I did not return for another season. After Grant was born, he was placed in the NICU, first at our hospital here in Rome and then transferred to Scottish Rite in Atlanta.  He spent six weeks in the NICU.
I had a stroke two and a half months after Grant was born.  One of the chemotherapies I received when I had cancer damaged my heart.  After my stroke, I didn’t know what activities I would be able to do.  Then, last year, I heard about Brent and Kyle Pease.  I saw them on television after the Peachtree Road Race.  I was amazed by these men.  I decided then that I was going to get in touch with The Kyle Pease Foundation (KPF) and see if they could assist me.
I’m borrowing a handcycle from KPF right now. Since I see a cardiologist, I discussed the racing with him.  He told me that I may never be able to do the hills alone, but when I told him about KPF, he became very excited and told me as long as I had someone to help, he didn’t see why I should not be able to continue.  I’ve done four 5K’s since November, and I’ve loved it!!  I’m enjoying being outside.  Sometimes, it’s hard to train, and this southern humidity is murder!
My husband is not a runner because he has Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, but I’ve found many other runners in my church to run with me.  Some days, I do the best I can and go as far as I can by myself.  Eventually, I want to be able to do a half marathon on a regular basis.  At least once in my life, I want to do a full marathon.  I know I’ll have to train for a while to be able to do this. 
KPF has helped me so much.  For one, they inspire me. To see all of these athletes, who just want to be active achieve that dream, motivates me to train harder and push myself even more.  I stay positive by not focusing on the hardships that my disabilities bring with them.  I just do the best that I can and stubbornly push through the obstacles.  I also stay positive and motivated because of my best friend/husband Bryant who has always pushed me to do whatever it is that I set my mind to doing.  He was one of the more vocal supporters of me transferring to Alabama to pursue my aspirations of playing wheelchair basketball.  He has also helped me stay positive and motivated because he’s loved me despite my amputation, the stroke, Grant being in the NICU, being diagnosed with autism, and his special needs.  He’s stood constant and on watch for his family.
Due to my disabilities, I’m unable to work and I do not receive SSDI.  We are a one income household.  By my son having special needs, so many appointments in Atlanta, it is impossible for me to work.  By receiving a KPF family grant, it would assist me in acquiring a handcycle so that I can continue training, staying physically active, and enjoying time with my family.  My only request is that it is a handcyle with a removable front wheel system. It is very difficult for me to load the device into my accessible van alone, which is sometimes necessary.
I know that everyone applying for this grant all have different needs, abilities, and disabilities.  Why should you give it to me?  I honestly cannot say that my need is any greater than anyone else’s. I just hope that, by me racing, whether with KPF or not, that other people will see that all people are just that, people.  No matter the disability, no matter the number of people helping push them along, that we all have the desire to finish the race.